Practice and Procedure

R v McNAUGHTEN (2003)

PUBLISHED December 19, 2003

A total sentence of nine years was not too long for a campaign of sadistic bullying inflicted by the appellant on the woman with whom he was living.The appellant ('M') appealed against a total sentence of nine years' imprisonment imposed on him after his conviction on a number of counts arising from a series of violent assaults against the woman with whom he was living. The victim had started a relationship with M in September 2001. Within a very short time M first used violence against her. The violence had progressed. He started to strangle her until she passed out. He kicked her, punched her and pulled her hair out. Counts 1 and 2 were specimen counts covering separate periods of assault, which had occurred every few days. Count 4 reflected a separate incident in January 2002 when M had held a knife to her face. Court 5 reflected another occasion when M had broken a bone in the victim's hand. In March 2002 the victim had left M but she returned in April. Count 6 reflected a course of conduct in April 2002 when M had hit and kicked her. Count 7 covered threats to kill in the same period. Count 8 reflected an occasion when M had held a knife to the victim's neck. Counts 9, 10 and 11 related to the incident which ended their relationship when M had punched her, strangled her until she lost consciousness, threatened to kill her, stabbed her and locked her in their flat. M denied the charges against him but was convicted of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, inflicting grievous bodily harm, making threats to kill, unlawful wounding and false imprisonment. The sentencing judge took the view that the verdicts of the jury meant that M should be treated as having terrorised the victim for something like eight months. In doing so he had inflicted direct physical assaults on her in a regime of sadistic bullying and had broken her spirit. He imposed sentences varying from 12 months to four years' imprisonment and made two four year sentences and one 12-month sentence run consecutively. M argued that the total sentence was disproportionate to the offences most of which were assaults occasioning actual bodily harm or offences contrary to s.20 Offences Against the Person Act 1861 for which the maximum sentence was five years.HELD: The victim was systematically brutalised by M. Subject to the totality principle, if there had been a separate victim for each of the counts consecutive sentences would have been justified. There was no reason why consecutive sentences were inappropriate simply because the victim of each assault had been the same person. The seriousness of an incident of violence had not diminished because it had taken place in a domestic context. Repeated violence between people who lived together was a betrayal of trust which was an aggravating feature of the offences. In assessing the totality of the sentence the court had to have regard to the overall and cumulative effect of repeated and unremitting violence not only in terms of the physical injuries but also the consequent psychological damage. There had been no mitigating circumstances. The case had gone to trial and the victim had been made to relive her experiences and her veracity had been challenged. M had behaved mercilessly to the victim. The sentence imposed had been severe and at the higher end of the range but had not been manifestly excessive and there had been no grounds for interfering with it.Appeal dismissed.

[2003] EWCA Crim 3479