Practice and Procedure


PUBLISHED June 24, 2003

A sentence of seven years for manslaughter was unduly lenient. Applying the factors set out in Attorney-General's Reference (Nos.19,20,21 of 2002) sub nom R v Burn & Ors to the facts of the present offence a sentence of eight-and-a-half years was appropriate.Application by the Attorney-General to refer, under s.36 Criminal Justice Act 1988, a sentence of seven years' for manslaughter imposed by HH Judge Richards at Chester Crown Court on 4 February 2003. The defendant ('P') and two others, ('K' and 'M') had been involved in the supply of cocaine and cannabis on a professional basis making ?1,500 per week. The three men believed that the victim ('V') had stolen cocaine from them and decided that he should be punished. On 30 March 2002 V was due to visit M's flat to pay for drugs. It was agreed that M would phone P and K when he arrived. P and K went to M's flat and K punched V in the face, V tried to leave but P blocked his way. P and K then repeatedly punched and kicked V for approximately two minutes. V was still alive but unconscious at that point. P left to get K's father as he was concerned about the level of K's aggression. While he was gone K broke glass bottles and dragged V's body over the glass, he then dragged him outside by his feet and put him in the boot of his car. K and M drove to the canal and P, who had returned, followed in another car. When they arrived at the canal V was further attacked by P and K kicking him. He was again put into the boot of the car and driven away, eventually being dumped in the middle of the road. The cars were taken to a car park and K's car was set alight to destroy evidence of V having been in the boot. V was found by a passing motorist and he later died in hospital. P was arrested and in interview stated that he had not been at the flat or the canal. He later changed his story and said he had been present but that it was K who had acted violently. The Attorney-General referred the sentence as unduly lenient given the following aggravating features: (i) it had been a premeditated attack; (ii) it was a punishment beating which had arisen because of the illegal supply of drugs; (iii) there had been more than one attacker; (iv) the attack had been prolonged and had taken place in two locations; (v) V had suffered multiple kicks to the head; (vi) P had been present when V was dumped; and (vii) P had previous convictions for violence. P contended that the jury found he had no intention to cause really serious harm, as he had been acquitted of murder, and he had shown some sympathy for V.HELD: (1) This was a grave case and it was helpful to look at Attorney-General's Reference (Nos.19,20,21 of 2002) sub nom R v Burn & Ors 2002 1 Cr App R (S) 136 in which Kay LJ had set out factors a sentencing judge should have regard to in cases of this kind. (2) Applying those factors to the present case it was clear that P did badly under each head. This had been a deliberate punishment beating in a drug dealing scenario. The violence had been contemplated and intended as an arrangement had been made to contact P and K when V arrived at M's flat. The extent of the premeditation was significant as was the extent of the violence. Where a victim was repeatedly kicked in the head there was a risk of death or very serious injury. (3) Taking into account the aggravating factors and the factors set out in Attorney-General's Reference (Nos.19,20,21 of 2002) sub nom R v Burn & Ors (supra) the sentence imposed was unduly lenient. In the court below the sentence should not have been less than ten years. Taking into account the principle of double jeopardy the sentence of seven years' would be quashed and a sentence of eight-and-a-half years' substituted.Leave to refer granted, application allowed.