Nicholas Leaning, 28 of Scunthorpe, has been convicted and sentenced to a total of 19 years imprisonment having been found guilty of s.18 Grievous Bodily Harm (wounding with intent) and attempting to destroy the life of a child. Leaning was acquitted of attempted murder but the jury took took less than two hours to convict of the alternative offence of GBH, having heard six days of evidence. His victim, ex-girlfriend Lauren Oliver, was pregnant with his child, when Leaning stabbed her five times in the stomach, allegedly because she refused to have an abortion. The baby, who was unharmed, was born prematurely, hours after the stabbing, weighing just 4lbs 1oz.
The jury heard that his victim had received a text message from Leaning stating “I will kick it out of you if I have to”. He attacked Oliver from behind, stabbing her in the stomach when she was 34 weeks pregnant.
Leaning denied the attack, originally telling the police that he had been at his father’s home at the time. In a subsequent interview he admitted this was false, and that he had in fact been at Ms Oliver’s home where he said Ms Oliver stabbed herself, and later falsely accuse Leaning.
His Honour Judge Richardson QC sentenced Leaning to 19 years for the GBH offence and 10 years for the offence of attempting to destroy the life of a child. The sentences run concurrently; so the total sentence is one of 19 years. In passing sentence the Judge noted that Leaning had previous convictions for violence, but had received non-custodial sentences, and so that past criminality was ignored for sentencing in this case. He described the case as “exceptionally serious”, that Leaning had shown no remorse and had presented an “entirely bogus account”.
The guidelines for GBH can be found here. The offence clearly falls into category one, being greater harm and higher culpability. The sentence starting point for a category one offence is 12 years, with the range being from 9 to 16 years.
In sentencing the Judge stated:
“I have paid close attention to the guidance of the Sentencing Council for crimes of this kind. I have formed the view that in this case my starting point is category one. I intent to depart from the guideline in an upwards direction because of the particularly serious circumstances of this case.
You intended Lauren Oliver really serious injury when you stabbed her five times.
You wanted to kill that unborn infant and you set about that task with calculated determination. It was a vile act.
You have shown not a shred of remorse for what you did. Indeed you have made outrageous assertions that Lauren Oliver stabbed herself and attempted to kill her own baby as an act of revenge for you choosing a former partner over her. That was arrant nonsense and a cruel assertion to make. I shall, however, ignore these points for the purposes of passing sentence upon you. I cannot and will not aggravate the sentence by reason of the outrageous defence you advanced before the jury. The trial has been an immense ordeal for the mother.”
The Judge went on to say that it was clear that Leaning intended “great harm” because the wounds were very serious and required emergency surgery, the victim was particularly vulnerable being 7 months pregnant and therefore unable to realistically defend herself, and because the attack was sustained, with repeated stab wounds. He found that Leaning’s culpability was of a “very high order” by reason of serious aggravating features: the fact that the attack was premeditated with a “brutal mission to kill an unborn child” and thereby cause the mother really serious injuries, plus the use of a knife. The seriousness of the case was enhanced by the fact that Leaning chose his moment to attack after the “school run”, when the escape would be relatively quiet, clearly indicative of considerable planning. It was said that he hid his car and had an escape route via a nearby broken fence. In addition, Leaning disposed of the evidence; the Judge formed the view that the knife had been thrown in a nearby river. Finally, the Judge noted the serious consequences for the victim.
The Judge continued:
“This is not simply a case of a brutal and sustained attach upon a vulnerable woman who happened to be pregnant, but a vicious attack with a knife upon a pregnant woman intending to kill the unborn baby. That is unquestionably the most appalling aspect of this case.
Punishment of a high order is plainly demanded which takes this outside the normal range for a serious stabbing.
The only mitigation that is advanced is the fact that mother and baby recovered from the appalling trauma you deliberately visited upon each of them. “
The Judge sentenced to 19 years for the GBH and 10 years for the attempted child destruction. In doing so he went outside the guidelines, but justified doing so on account of the very serious nature of the attack.
Is Leaning likely to appeal?
It seems likely that Leaning will appeal the sentence. Given that 19 years takes him outside the guidelines it seems he has little to lose by attempting an appeal.
Although he was acquitted of attempted murder, it’s perhaps unlikely that he would have received a lengthier sentence had he been convicted. Whether the sentence can be described as “manifestly excessive”, is a matter for the Court of Appeal.