Practice and Procedure

R v IAN LAVENE (2003)

PUBLISHED May 22, 2003

Life sentences were appropriate for grave offences of aggravated burglary, rape and buggery, however, a specified period ought to have been decided. In all the circumstances the recommendation of the Lord Chief Justice of a term of 11 years would be the correct specified period.Appeal against sentence by the defendant ('L') who was convicted on 23 March 1994 at St Albans Crown Court of aggravated burglary, rape, buggery and indecent assault. L was sentenced on 18 May 1994 by HH Judge Blofeld to life imprisonment for each count of aggravated burglary, rape and buggery to run concurrently and 10 years for each count of indecent assault concurrent with each other and with the life sentence. L appealed against conviction with leave of the single judge. However, for various reasons the appeal was not listed until a few weeks ago. The appeal against conviction was abandoned but leave was given for an appeal against sentence and an extension of time. Following the enactment of the Criminal Justice Act 1991 there had been a series of cases, including the present case, where a life sentence had been imposed but no tariff or relevant period had been specified. The Lord Chancellor established a policy to cover such prisoners whereby if no term had been specified under s.34 of the 1991 Act then the trial judge should be approached to get his recommendation. In July 1998 the trial judge, in written reasons, stated that he had passed a life sentence because the offences were so grave and if he had been considering a finite sentence it would have been 16 years. He recommended 14 years be served before L was considered for parole. The then Lord Chief Justice, Lord Bingham, in August 1998 recommended a term of eleven years. No representations were made either before the then Lord Chief Justice or the trial judge which was the reason why it had been appropriate to grant leave to appeal. L's first victim was sunbathing in her garden when L broke in. He was masked and had a knife and forced her indoors where he stole money. L said he "would do it in her mouth". He masturbated and ejaculated into her mouth forcing her to swallow. In 1990 L forced his way into his second victim's home by telling her he was the police. He stole money, raped and buggered her and then ejaculated into her mouth forcing her to swallow. In 1992 L entered his third victims house whilst she was asleep. He cut the phone wire, took money and demanded her pin numbers. He tied her up and masturbated into her mouth forcing her to swallow. L's fourth victim awoke to find him sitting astride her, he raped her and then ejaculated in her mouth again making her swallow. L appealed sentence on the ground that the sentence could and should have been determinative. If the life sentence was correct a specified period ought to have been decided.HELD: (1) Given the very serious grave nature of the offences the judge was right to impose a life sentence. Not only were there offences of rape and buggery but indecent assault of the worst sort you could imagine. (2) The court had to decide what the relevant period for very serious offences was. It was now the practice of the courts to set the relevant period as half of the term. The Lord Chief Justice would have been aware of that in 1998 and since he specified a relative period of 11 years he must have had in mind an appropriate tariff term of 22 years in all. That was the very least term a tariff could have been imposed for the various awful offences. To put it crudely, a term of 22 years equalled only five and a half years for each victim. Each offence warranted considerably longer, however, the totality of the sentence had to be considered. (3) 22 years was the very least that should have been imposed therefore, the relative period of 11 years as set administratively by the Lord Chief Justice was correct. It was necessary to set out a specified period, but that period would be 11 years.Appeal allowed to the extent a specified period ought to have been set.