BBC News reported on 5 September 2016 that Attar Khan had been sentenced to an extended sentence following a conviction for a “sadistic attack”. It was described as being ‘jailed for 11 years’, which caused some on twitter to question whether it was too light a sentence.
As ever, we hope to bring a little clarity to the news reports.
Khan had pleaded guilty to s.18 wounding with intent and ABH. Over a prolonged period of hours – we dont know quite how long – he inflicted numerous injuries on the victim including by stabbing her with a knife. This resulted in her suffering multiple “gaping” wounds and a very bruised and swollen face. During the attack, Khan made the victim eat food containing his own faeces, and brush her teeth with a toothbrush contaminated with the same.
The victim suffered from mental health issues, and eventually alerted the police when Khan sent her to buy tobacco the following day.
The judge described the offences as “ferocious” and “brutal”.
The judge imposed an extended sentence. That means that Khan was considered to be “dangerous” – i.e. he poses a significant risk of serious harm to members of the public.
The judge then had to determine the appropriate custodial period. This is done in the usual way (as if the sentence was not an extended sentence). The judge set this at 11 years, having (presumably) made a reduction for the guilty plea. The news reports do not state what the reduction was, but the starting point (that is the sentence that would have been imposed had Khan not pleaded) would have been somewhere in the region of 14-16 years. This seems to be an appropriate sentence based on an application of the sentencing guidelines. The appropriate category (Category 1) has a starting point of 12 years; this case has numerous aggravating features and is certainly towards the top end of the category range (which is 9-16 years).
The judge then had to determine the appropriate length of extended licence. For violent offences, the maximum is five years and the minimum is one year. The judge chose four years (which is perhaps unsurprising as Khan appears – just on the basis of the facts of the offence – to be a very dangerous man).
Could this have been a case for a life sentence? Possibly. It was an horrific attack over a prolonged period on a vulnerable victim and features numerous concerning elements. However, such a decision can only be made when in possession of all the facts – the judge is of course best placed to make that decision and would not doubt have had the benefit of submissions from counsel and a pre-sentence report considering the issue of dangerousness.
The sentence seems to be about right (it certainly should not have been any lower).
There was a discussion between few barristers on Twitter about this case, with some disagreement as to how the sentence should be reported. Some considered 15 years was appropriate, some 11, some 11+4. For what it is worth, my opinion is that it should be explained in the press the same way it is explained to the defendant:
the custodial term is 11 years, that has been discounted from X to reflect the guilty plea; the extended licence is 4 years
because this is an extended sentence, Khan will serve 2/3 of the 11 year term before the Parole Board can consider whether it is safe to release him. Khan can be kept in prison for the full 11 years if necessary. When released, he will serve the balance of the 11 year term (if any) plus the additional 4 year licence on licence, which means he is subject to recall to prison if he breaches the conditions. He could therefore serve a total of 15 years.
This means that although an 11 year sentence would lead to a release after 5½ years, here Mr Khan will have to serve a minimum of 7 and 1/3 years (equivalent to a determinate sentence of at least 14 and 2/3 years). It would be better if the news reports made this consequence of extended sentences more clear.