Practice and Procedure

R v J (2003)

PUBLISHED July 10, 2003

A minimum term of ten years following a conviction for murder was not manifestly excessive or wrong in principle as it was clear the sentencing judge had in mind the Practice Statement on minimum terms. However, it was possible insufficient account was taken of the defendant's positive good character and the term would be reduced to nine years.Appeal, with leave of the single judge, against sentence following conviction for murder at the Central Criminal Court on 24 March 2003. The defendant ('J'), who was 15 years' old at the time of the offence, was ordered to be detained at Her Majesty's Pleasure with a recommended term of ten years to be served before being considered for release. On 6 August 2002 the victim ('V') was walking with his cousin. J and three friends saw V, followed him then confronted him. A fight broke out which progressed into a nearby pub where J stabbed V twice then ran off. V died later in hospital. It was the Crown's case that J confronted V because of an earlier incident where V took ?10 of cannabis from J but refused to pay. When the judge set the minimum term he stated that J had deliberately killed a man and only he knew the truth why but if it was over such a small amount of drugs it was tragic. The minimum term was set to punish and to deter others. The judge took into account not just the fact J was of good character. J appealed sentence on the ground that it was manifestly excessive.HELD: (1) It was clear the judge had in mind the Practice Statement on minimum terms (2003) 1 Cr App R (S) 46. He must have used the normal starting point of 12 years increased it to take into account the fact the offence was planned and J was armed then reduced it to take into account J's age and good character. The term was further reduced to take into account time spent on remand. If the starting point was increased by two years then decreased by three years then further reduced by eight months for the period on remand the result was a sentence of ten years four months, rounded down it came to the judge's figure of ten years. (2) The sentence could, therefore, not be faulted as manifestly excessive or wrong in principle. The court had further information before it in the way of reports from the Young Offender's Institution which were extremely favourable. It was possible, because not specifically mentioned in the Practice Statement, insufficient account was taken of J's positive good character. Fixing of a minimum term was not mechanistic and it was appropriate to stand back after performing all the tasks and see if the term was correct. (3) The minimum term would be reduced from ten years to nine years.Appeal allowed.