Practice and Procedure

R v M; R v C (2003)

PUBLISHED October 22, 2003

Sentences of 18 months for affray were severe but not manifestly excessive, given that the attack was on an asylum seeker and had a racial element.Appeals, with leave of the single judge, by each defendant ('M' and 'C') against sentences for affray of 18 months in a Young Offender's Institution in the case of M, and 18 months' detention and training order in the case of C. On 28 April 2003 at Coventry Crown Court the defendants and a co-accused pleaded guilty to affray and on 28 May 2003 they were all sentenced by Recorder Ross. The victim ('V') was an Iraqi asylum seeker living with his wife and child. He was awoken one night by a disturbance. When he went outside he found between five and nine youths, some shouting racial abuse, M pushed V and C punched him once. V managed to get back inside the house, called the police and C and M were arrested. M pleaded guilty to the offence on the basis that he had walked past the incident as it was taking place and he had gone into V's garden. He pushed V once moving him towards the house and whilst he heard racial abuse he had not shouted any racial abuse himself. M and C appealed sentences on the grounds they were manifestly excessive given: (i) the judge failed to give sufficient weight to mitigating factors such as the pleas of guilty and M's previous good character; (ii) unless the judge had been minded to impose a sentence under s.91 Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000 the maximum sentence in C's case was two years' detention and training order, the sentence of 18 months was only one step down from that; and (iii) the co-accused had only received an 18 month sentence and he had previous convictions, had carried a weapon and committed the offence whilst on bail.HELD: (1) The sentences passed were undoubtedly severe but could not be said to be manifestly excessive. It was an ugly incident with a racial element, even though the judge accepted that M and C had shouted no racial abuse. This was an attack on an asylum seeker in his own home and it was important that courts sent out the message to those minded to commit such offences that they would attract severe punishment.Appeals dismissed.