Practice and Procedure


PUBLISHED February 13, 2003

A sentencing judge was entitled to pass a severe sentence with an element of deterrence. However, the sentence passed in relation to firearms offences was slightly too high and insufficient account had been taken of the defendant's youth and lack of previous convictions.Appeal against sentence with leave of the single judge. On 30 January 2002 at Blackfriars Crown Court before HH Judge Pontious the defendant ('B') was convicted of concealing the proceeds of drug trafficking, possession of a Class A drug with intent to supply and possession of a prohibited weapon and ammunition. On 14 March 2002 B was sentenced to a total of 13 years' imprisonment. A confiscation order was made for ?87,000 with 21 consecutive months in default. On 5 April 2001 police officers had searched premises where B was present and found 11.9 grammes of cocaine, electronic scales and a dealer list. In a pillow case in a shoe box they found a pistol loaded with live cartridges. £50,000 in cash was also found. At the time B gave a false name to the police. Two other addresses used by B were also searched and a further £5,000 was found along with 18 hollow point bullets. B gave a no comment interview but gave a written statement which said the cocaine was for personal use and the firearm was not his. On 15 May 2001 B revealed his real name and made a further no comment interview. When sentencing, the judge referred to the fact that B had no previous convictions, but said that that mitigation was of no great significance. The judge also said that: (i) B was intelligent and the amount of money involved indicated the scale on which he dealt drugs; (ii) B was involved in a commercial operation and it would be naive to accept that the possession of the gun and ammunition were unrelated; and (iii) he had to deal severely with B as hardly a week went by without a drug-related shooting on the streets of London. B appealed on the grounds that: (a) the totality of the sentence was excessive; (b) the comment about drug-related shootings was unfair; (c) the sentence passed reflected a wider intention than that put forward by the prosecution; and (d) B had shown remorse, had no previous convictions and was only 23 years old.HELD: (1) The total sentence of six years passed in respect of the concealment and possession was clearly within guidelines and could be said to be on the lenient side. (2) In relation to the firearm offences it would be naive to believe that they were unconnected with the other offences. The sentencing judge was entitled to pass a sentence with an element of deterrence. B was convicted after a 12 day trial and any remorse shown had to be seen in that context. (3) Whilst a severe sentence was required, the sentence passed was too high. The judge possibly failed to take insufficient account of B's youth and his lack of previous convictions. (4) The seven years for the firearm offences would be reduced to five years to run consecutively with the six years for the other offences giving a total of 11 years.Appeal allowed to the extent indicated.