Author Archives: Sara Williams

Photo from the BBC

Polly Chowdhury and Kiki Muddar guilty of killing Ayesha Ali

Introduction

In August 2013 eight year old Ayesha Ali was found dead in her bedroom, having sustained more than 50 injuries.  A post-mortem found that Ayesha died as a result of damage to her head, caused by a blow or series of blows, on 29th August 2013.  Her body showed signs of prolonged abuse; carpet burns and even a bite mark.

_81393587_81393586

Ayesha’s mother, Polly Chowdhury, 35, and her girfriend Kiki Muddar, 43, have today been convicted of manslaughter, by a majority of 10-2, by a jury sitting at the Old Bailey.  The pair were cleared of murder.  The jury retired to consider their verdict on 19th February, and spent over 31 hours deliberating.

 

Background

The jury heard that Muddar was disgusted by Ayesha, who endured prolonged abuse as a result.

Muddar met Chowdhury when she moved next door to Ayesha’s family in 2007.  Muddar befrended Chowdhury, and sought sympathy from her by pretending to have cancer.

Ayesha’s father, Afsar Ali, moved the family away from Muddar, but she tracked Chowdhury down, prompting the breakdown of her marriage.

Over time Muddar used Facebook updates and over 40,000 text messages to manipulate Chowdhury into believing that her daughter had evil spirits inside her and needed to be disciplined.  One text read “You have no right to ever love or like your evil daughter”, describing her as “pure evil” and a witch.  She even blamed Ayesha for making her fictional cancer worse and threatened to drown her in the bath.

A psychiatrist told the Court that Muddar had not been delusional in her actions, and fully understood what she was doing:

“She was rational in her judgments in having a disgust with Ayesha. She did not like Polly Chowdhury putting Ayesha above her interests,” he said.

“However immoral, abhorrent and illegal her judgment, it was rational… there is no question of either defendant having been mad.”

In Chowdhury’s evidence she admitted that the pair smaked Ayesha and his her with a wooden spoon, because “Skyman” an alias “spirit” created by Muddar, told them to in a text message.

The pair will be sentenced on Friday 6th March.

Former Doctor Michael Salmon found guilty of rape and indecent assault

Dr Michael Salmon, 80, has been convicted of nine indecent assaults and two rapes during the 1970s and 80s while he was working at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, which is at the centre of the Jimmy Savile scandal

 

Former paediatrician Michael Salmon has been found guilty of two rapes and nine offences of indecent assault.  He was convicted of the offences, committed against young girls at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Buckinghamshire, on 6th February 2015.

Salmon was acquitted of one rape and one indecent assault, as well as one offence of carrying out an illegal abortion.

The former doctor, now aged 79, committed the offences between 1973 and 1988.  He was struck off the medical register in 1991 for admitting three counts of indecent assault against young female patients.

He pleaded not guilty to the offences at Reading Crown Court but was convicted following a trial.  Witnesses evidenced that Salmon carried out his attacks behind a screen in his consulting room, with parents of the victims sat waiting, believing he was completing a medical examination.  A victim evidenced that he had raped her on two separate occasions, when she was just 16 years old.

Miranda Moore QC, prosecuting, said he believed he was “bomb-proof” because no one would believe a child over him.

The jury heard that Salmon would assault young girls by touching their breasts and would carry out intimate examinations, for which there was no medical need.

Salmon claimed the allegations were “sexual fantasies” made up by “gold diggers” and unreliable teenagers.

In a press statement, Adrian Foster, Chief Crown Prosecutor for CPS Thames and Chiltern said:

“Michael Salmon has been convicted today of offences which are particularly shocking due to the abuse of his position as a doctor taking advantage of the female patients in his care. His crimes were extremely traumatic for his victims who should have expected his support rather than this gross betrayal of their trust.

“Michael Salmon used his status to molest these vulnerable young girls and women who felt unable to complain as he was a doctor, and many of whom only bravely came forward after seeing other cases in the media. I hope they now feel that justice has been done.”

Salmon remains in custody, awaiting sentence.

Gang Jailed for Brutal Attack on an American Student

The student from Florida (pictured in hospital) suffered series facial injuries in the attack - and was left with a smashed eye socket

Francesco Hounye had been in the UK for just three days when he was left with permanent scarring after sustaining a brutal attack at the hands of five men in June 2013. The men, Samad Uddin, Shadhat Hussain, Kamrul Hussain, Shaleem Uddin and Masoom Rahman, were caught on CCTV repeatedly punching and kicking the 23 year-old man in an apparent unprovoked attack. Three of the men pleaded guilty last year to causing Grevious Bodily Harm (s.20), also known as “wounding”.  A fourth man (Shaleem Uddin) pleaded to GBH with intent to cause really serious harm (s.18). The fifth man, Samad Uddin, claimed he was the victim of mistaken identity, was tried and found guilty of s.18 GBH by a jury sitting at Snaresbrook Crown Court.

CCTV images (published in the national press) showed Mr Hounye drinking from a bottle of Jagermeister when he was attacked by the group, who wrestled the bottle from his hands, smashed it over his head and beat him. It was a sustained and brutal attack, captured almost entirely on CCTV.  A passer-by intervened and the gang fled. Mr Hounye’s injuries were severe, requiring 23 stitches across his face. His eye socket was left fractured.  He is scarred for life and requires ongoing treatment from a psycho-therapist.

 

Sentencing

HH Judge Hammerson sentenced the gang on 2nd February 2015, to various sentences of imprisonment.

Shaleem Uddin, 22, was sentenced to six years for s.18 GBH, the longest sentence of the group, as he was alleged to be a ringleader and did not have the benefit of “credit” from a guilty plea to reduce his sentence.

Samad Uddin, 26, was sentenced to 66 months for s.18 GBH (5 years 6 months), also alleged to have been a ring-leader. He is currently serving 32 month sentence for possession with intent to supply drugs, and money laundering, which he received in January 2015. The GBH sentence will run concurrent to that sentence, due to the principle of totality.

Kamrul Hussain, 23, was sentenced to 27 months (2 years 3 months) for s.20 GBH (wounding)

Shadhat Hussain, 20, was sentenced to 22 months for s.20 GBH.

Masoom Rahman, 22, was given a suspended sentence of 18 months, suspended for two years, with 200 hours of unpaid work, £1000 compensation and £800 costs. The “suspended” sentence means that he will serve no prison time so long as he remains conviction-free for the next two years and completes his unpaid work.

 

Why the difference in sentences?

We don’t know the full extent of the mitigation, but it’s likely that there was considerable mitigation for Shadhat Hussain, who, it is suggested, had aspirations of going to medical school.  He he was the only man to receive a suspended sentence of imprisonment. Press reports state that he threw three punches, which clearly gives him a much lesser role in the overall offending.  Previous good character (having no convictions or cautions) and an early guilty plea (which can reduce sentences by up to a third) are both significant mitigating factors, which may have come into play here.

 

Will they appeal?

It seems unlikely that any appeal would be successful. This was a serious sustained attack, with a weapon, where s.18 charges were justified in respect of two members of the group.

The Sentencing Council guideline for assault can be found here. It seems that the Judge placed Shameem Uddin and Samad Uddin in category two, which carries a starting point of 6 years. Samad Uddin’s sentence would have been reduced on account of his guilty plea.

Wounding, under s.20 of the Offences Against the Person Act, carries a lesser sentence than that of s.18.  Sentences of 22, 27 and 18 months (suspended in respect of the latter) do not appear to be excessive given the nature of the attack.  Category one of the guideline specifies a three year starting point, with a range of 2 years six months to 4 years.  Category two has a starting point of one year and six months, and a range of 1-3 years.  It appears the Judge may have placed the offences between category one and two, which given the presence of the weapon (the glass bottle of Jegermeister) and the injuries caused, seems entirely appropriate.  Indeed, this appears to be a category one offence, which perhaps was mitigated down from a higher sentence due to the guilty pleas offered by these defendants.

Photo from the BBC

John Allen sentenced to life imprisonment for sexual abuse

Introduction

Recently we wrote about John Allen, found guilty of 33 sexual offences, spanning almost 30 years.

Today he was sentenced, to life imprisonment, with a minimum term of 11 years.  In sentencing Allen, Mr Justice Openshaw said:

There have no doubt been more prolific offenders but seldom can there be so many grave offences committed on so many victims over a long period of time, causing so much anguish and misery.

The Court heard how the system of monitoring at the care home was wholly inadequate.There were no complainants, because the boys knew it was pointless to do so, and that “gave the defendant the belief that he was untouchable“.

The Judge said there was a common theme of Allen targeting boys who were more susceptible to grooming with gifts given as “inducements” or to “keep them quiet”.

Allen, who is now aged 73, faces a minimum term of 11 years in prison.  Thereafter he will be assessed by the parole board and will not be released until the time comes that he is no longer considered to be a risk of harm to the public.

Will Allen appeal?  It seems likely, as he has little to lose.

 

Facts

The sentencing remarks have not been made available publicly, but we understand that they will be.

Taking it shortly, there were 19 different victims that Mr Allen had abused, having groomed them over a period of time. This was against a background of abuse of trust. The offending included five victims who were subject to what is now classified as rape (at the time, buggery covered consensual and non-consensual anal sex).

 

Comment

This case raised a couple of interesting issues. Firstly, as noted, there were previous convictions. The judge considered the arguments and concluded that they could not be considered an aggravating factor.

On the other hand, no allowance was made for the fact that he was sent to prison in 1996.

This is pretty much as we would expect, and the judge seems to have struck a proper balance.

More controversial would be the length of the sentence itself. The starting point of 22 years is undoubtedly severe, and more than double he would have got at the time of the offending, but is unlikely to be considered ‘manifestly excessive’, which is the test for the Court of Appeal. It seems that thinking has moved now to sentencing offenders purely as they would be sentenced today, unless that exceeded the maximum sentence available. it is worth comparing with the sentence that Myles Bradbury received on the same day however.

More controversial would be the life sentence itself. The judge recognised that me Allen was no longer ‘dangerous’ so as to require an extended sentence. But he passed a life sentence nonetheless due to the nature of the offence and to mark the severity of it. I would question to what extent it is appropriate to pass a life sentence as a punishment rather than because the offender is dangerous.

Nicholas Leaning – 19 year sentence for stabbing pregnant ex-girlfriend

Leaning found guilty of stabbing his pregnant ex-girlfriend

Facts

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.

 

Sentence

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.

Convicted sex offender Lee Pearson’s sentence doubled

Lee Pearson

 

Following a trial at Sheffield Crown Court in June 2013, Lee Pearson, 28 from Rotherham, was convicted of rape, sexual assault and six counts of having sexual activity with a child.  He was sentenced by Mr Recorder Lodge QC to six years’ imprisonment.

The facts are somewhat unclear, but the BBC reports that Pearson befriended two fourteen year-old girls in 2011.  The abuse began several months later and lasted almost a year before one of his victims contacted the police.

The Attorney General’s office referred the sentence to the Court of Appeal as it was considered to be unduly lenient. It was argued on behalf of the AG that the sentence should be increased. We don’t yet have the judgment and so we cannot say on what grounds the sentence was said to be unduly lenient.

The Court of Appeal increased his sentence to one of twelve years, finding that the original sentence was unduly lenient.  In increasing the sentence, Lord Justice Fulford said the twelve-year term reflected the “violence and coercion and degradation” that had accompanied the offences.  He added, “It is clear from the evidence that he dominated these two young victims and used this coercion to maintain their compliance…He groomed these victims”.

The increase in sentence is pretty staggering, and is not something that happens often.  Most recently, back in July 2013, Stuart Hall had his sentence doubled by the Court of Appeal from 15 months to 30 months, and in February 2012 Zephen Rollings had his sentenced increased from 5 to 10 years by the Court of Appeal having been found guilty of possession of a (loaded) firearm with intent to endanger life.

The sentencing guidelines for sexual offences can be found here.  We don’t have full details of the offences, nor the mitigation, and so can’t comment on the dramatic increase, but we will update this post when the judgment and sentencing remarks are published.

Nadine Wilson-Ellis – disbarred after fraud conviction

Image from the Western Press

Image from the Western Press

Last year Nadine Wilson-Ellis, a barrister and law lecturer, was convicted of housing benefit fraud and sent to prison for 7 months. We didn’t actually say in that, that this would spell the end of her legal career, but confirmation of that was received on 8th July 2014 where the Bar Standards Board heard Ms Wilson-Ellis’s case and disbarred her (the highest sanction that they can impose).

This is not a surprise. Ms Wilson-Ellis hadn’t actually practised as a barrister, but will no longer be able to start her training if she had wanted to. This will not affect her work as a Law Lecturer as a matter of law, but the University may well have taken action against her.

Common – (Legal) Review of BBC Drama

Common-BBC-cast

Introduction

Jimmy McGovern is an absolutely cracking writer, as anyone who has seen his work can tell you. On Sunday 6th July 2014 he turned his hand to the controversial ‘joint enterprise’ law with a drama called ‘Common‘.

We have a factsheet on joint enterprise, which is a notoriously complex area of law, if you want a bit of background.

 

Plot

The drama opens as Johnjo borrows Patrick (his brother) car to drive a cousin, Tony, and two friends (Kieran and Colin) for a pizza, an ordinary night out for many people up and down the land, when Kieran stabs another boy – Thomas Ward. Johnjo drives them away as he and the others realise what has happened, and that Thomas was not going to live.

We then switch to the family of Thomas, who have to deal with their loss. But he (and his family) is not the only victim of the events of the night – Johnjo and his family are about to be ripped apart as well. He is a decent lad, and wants to go to the police to give his side to the story before the police come to him (good advice), but is warned about grassing,

He then finds out from his cousin that the other three were going to the pizza place with the aim of ‘sorting out’ (but not killing) someone. This wasn’t the one who was killed, but a different one. Kieran, one of the four, had a knife and stabbed Thomas.

It doesn’t take a great deal of detective work before the police begin to crack the case. CCTV shows that it was Patrick’s car and he is arrested. His alibi checks out and is quickly released, but he now knows that Johnjo was involved somewhere along the line and this blows up.

Johnjo’s Mum gives the worst advice imaginable – you’ve done nothing wrong so you don’t need a lawyer. His Dad is a bit more sensible (although he seems to think you wouldn’t get a good criminal lawyer on a Sunday).

Unfortunately for Johnjo, he listens to Mum and goes off to the police station to reveal all, on his own, without a solicitor or appropriate adult. DI Hastings does the ‘good cop/bad cop’ routine all by himself. Johnjo reveals all that happened. His Mum was wrong – the police don’t thank him for assistance and telling the truth and send him on his way … he is charged and kept in custody.

The other boys are picked up and all, sensibly, say ‘no comment’ in their interview. The guy in the pizza place (Hugo Davis) is asked to do an ID parade, but there’s an ulterior motive – he’s in the frame too, due to a phone call from him to Tony before and after the killing and is charged with murder.

We then get to see, finally, what happened in the pizza place – they all pile in to get Albert Flanagan, there’s a bit of violence, but the and Kieran sees Thomas eyeing him up and stabs him.

We then start the courtroom drama properly. Johnjo’s barrister does what appears to be an ‘application to dismiss’ to get him out of the case which is, needless to say, unsuccessful. There is then a meeting of all the defendants and lawyers downstairs in the cells. And at this point is gets a bit more dubious legally – a plea bargain is on the table – Kieran pleads to murder and all the others to GBH and that would be enough.

Johnjo’s Dad says take it, his mum says no. Johnjo is under pressure from all sides and, after some not too unsubtle threats from his codefendants, agrees to take the deal. Kieran gets life with a minimum term of 24 years. Colin and Anthony get 6 years and Johnjo 5 years 4 months.

 

Legal Issues Raised

A couple of problems you’d have spotted if you were a lawyer (and some you would have if you weren’t):

  • DI Hastings wouldn’t have told Margaret Ward that an arrest was imminent, and certainly would have said who it was.
  • As soon as Johnjo started the conversations with DI Hastings, he should probably have stopped and cautioned him (but, this doesn’t always happen)
  • As Johnjo is 17, an appropriate adult is compulsory (the law on that changed relatively recently however – you can see the High Court judgment here)
  • Johnjo would not have been allowed to keep his phone with him in the police interview
  • Threatening to arrest Johnjo’s parents is not something the police should do. It’s something that do do, but wouldn’t do in an interview which is recorded
  • A Magistrates’ Court is not able to grant bail and the Court would not adjourn for two weeks back there – it would go straight off to the Crown Court
  • The ID parade was not conducted properly – having DI Hastings there with a bit of a prompt and threat, as well as the other safeguards not being there, means that it should be ruled inadmissible (it’s a murder though, so who knows?)
  • The police don’t charge, and then uncharge, people, at least in the way shown in the interview.
  • It’s pretty rare nowadays that you’d get four people wearing a suit
  • The barrister for Johnjo would have been slapped down pretty quickly with his speech on joint enterprise
  • The Judge is a High Court Judge and is called ‘My Lord’ not ‘Your Honour’
  • The families of the victim and the defendants would not be wondering around the same cafe together, certainly not in a murder case
  • The High Court Judge seems to think that joint enterprise is a rule made by Parliament, which it never has been – it’s a judge-made law that can be unmade by Judges
  • Lawyers aren’t allowed mobile phones in the Court cells
  • The Prosecutor would not come down to the cells to engage in plea bargaining at all. Ever. Not in a million years.
  • The High Court Judge almost gets the name of the statute right when sentencing – it’s the Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000

But, notwithstanding that, it was actually a pretty accurate view of how a criminal case works, and didn’t (as many criminal TV shows do) make me cringe when watching it.

 

Review

This isn’t a documentary and, as I’ve said before, a legal drama that was based on real life would be incredibly dull. It’s a tightly written drama (as you’d expect) and very well acted and directed. It’s certainly one that tugs on your heartstrings.

It was good that they showed the story from both sides, and the pain that the victim’s family went through isn’t glossed over in any way (even if the reconciliation at the end was a bit twee (or as twee as it can be on a northern council estate).

Joint enterprise isn’t a ‘new’ thing (although it has been used a lot more recently) and whilst it applies to every crime, it is disproportionately used in murder cases. It is also more acute due to the fact that murder carries a mandatory life sentence and you can be found guilty of murder not only without intending to kill, but in some cases without intending to cause really serious harm – merely foreseeing that death might happen is sufficient.

Anyone with experience of the criminal justice system knows the unfairness that can be caused by joint enterprise, but this didn’t need to be stated quite so clearly all the time (I got a little sick of the words ‘joint enterprise’ by the end).

 

Is it accurate?

Yes. Sadly. Knowing what happened in the pizza place, it is clear that Kieran is guilty of the murder of Thomas and GBH of Albie. Tony and Colin are guilty of GBH. Johnjo is not guilty of anything.

Actually, the most unrealistic aspect of this is the prosecution agreeing to drop the murder charge against  the three in return for pleas to GBH. In a case such as this, I would imagine that it would go to trial  and it would not surprise me if Kieran, Tony and Colin were found guilty of murder. Johnjo might be luckier, but I wouldn’t be that surprised if he was convicted also.

Picking one case that I have read recently , Mitchell & Ballantyne [2011] EWCA Crim 2552 shows that the scenario in ‘Common’ is not in any way fanciful.

The other issue that it did raise is the iniquity than can sometimes be seen by ‘plea bargaining’. Officially it doesn’t exist in England and Wales, in practice it is rampant. Here, Johnjo had no real alternative but to plead guilty – out in 2½ years at the age of 20, with the possibility of building something of your life at least, versus life with a 20 year tariff (as he was 17 at the time) – meaning, in reality, that he would not be out till he was in his early 40s (if he was lucky) with no real chance of building any kind of life.

Faced with that, who wouldn’t take it?

 

Rolf Harris Sentenced – 5 years, 9 months

an-rolf-harris-mugshot-300x0 Introduction

Rolf Harris was convicted of 12 counts of indecent assault on 30th June 2014. Sentence was adjourned to the 4th July in order for a medical report to be obtained. We gave our guess as to what sentence he would receive here.

Prior to sentencing ‘Victim Impact Statements’ were read to the Court, where the victims set out how the abuse had, as the name suggests, impacted on them. There was then mitigation where the obvious factors in mitigation – Mr Harris age, good character and the fact that he is the carer for his ill wife, were put forward.

In the end, Mr Harris was sentenced to a total of 5 years and 9 months in prison. The full sentencing remarks can be read here and are, of course, vital reading in understanding the sentence.

 

Offences

Mr Harris was convicted of the offences as follows:

  • Count 1: Indecent assault between 1/1/68 and 1/1/70 on a girl A, aged 7-8

Sentence : 9 months

Details :A was queuing for Mr Harris’s autograph. “When she reached the front of the queue, Harris “twice put his hand up her skirt between her legs and touched her vagina over her clothing“. She said she had initially thought it might have been an accident but then he touched her again.”

  • Count 2: Indecent assault on a girl B, 14, between 1/1/75 and 1/1/76

Sentence : 6 months (consecutive)

Details:B was working as a waitress at a charity event when Mr Harris put his arm around her and down her back and over her bottom. “squeezing her left buttock a number of times“.

 

  • Count 3: Indecent assault between 5/4/80 and 4/4/81 on girl C aged 15
  • Count 4: Indecent assault between 5/4/80 and 4/4/81 on same girl, 15
  • Count 5: Indecent assault between 5/4/80 and 4/4/81 on same girl, 15
  • Count 6: Indecent assault between 5/4/80 and 4/4/81 on same girl, 15
  • Count 7: Indecent assault between 1/1/84 and 1/1/85 on same girl, then aged 19
  • Count 8: Indecent assault between 5/4/80 and 4/4/81 on same girl, 15
  • Count 9: Indecent assault between 5/4/80 and 4/4/81 on same girl, 15

Details: C was a childhood friend of Mr Harris’s daughter and they lived close by. The offending started when she was aged 15. A summary of the offending is :

  • 3 – digital penetration of C’s vagina by spitting on his finger and putting it under her jeans for a minute – 15 months consecutive 
  • 4 – digital penetration of C’s vagina by spitting on his finger and putting it under her dungarees for a minute and a half – 15 months concurrent
  • 5 – digital penetration of C’s vagina whilst C was staying with Mr Harris daughter (whilst she had left the room) – 15 months concurrent
  • 6 – oral penetration of C’s vagina on the same occasion as Count 5 – 12 months concurrent
  • 7 – digital penetration of C’s vagina whilst C was staying with Mr Harris daughter whilst she was asleep in the same room – 15 months consecutive
  • 8- oral penetration of C’s vagina on the same occasion as Count 7 – 12 months concurrent
  • 9 – digital penetration of C’s vagina whilst she was in Mr Harris swimming pool – 12 months consecutive

The news reports indicate that C was aged between 13 and 15 at the time of the offences. Some of this (seemingly the earlier parts) was behaviour that was alleged to have occurred outside of England and Wales, and so cannot be tried in this country. We don’t know if the jury accepted that evidence or not, and so Mr Harris should not be sentenced on the basis that the abuse started when C was 13.

The total sentence for offences relating to C is 42 months

  • Count 10: Indecent assault on 31/5/86 on girl D, aged 14
  • Count 11: Indecent assault on D on same day
  • Count 12: Indecent assault on D on same day

Details:

  • 10 – putting his hand on her thigh over tights and knickers whilst she was sitting on his lap in public – 9 months concurrent
  • 11 – putting D in a ‘forceful bear hug‘ and putting his hand down her top into her bra and playing with her breasts for 30 seconds – 9 months concurrent
  • 12 digital penetration – 12 months consecutive 

Sentence : Unclear

Note – D has been widely named as it is reported that she has waived her anonymity. There is (probably) no power for her to do this, at least without having a waiver for this blog, as so we won’t name her as this would be a criminal offence. Clearly, all the other news outlets don’t agree with that!

[Information courtesy of the Daily Mail and BBC].

 

Sentencing Powers & Approach to sentence

The maximum sentences on Count 1 is 5 years, for Counts 2-9 it is 2 years on each count. The maximum for Counts 10-12 is 10 years each. We have a factsheet on sentencing in historic sexual abuse cases. Also worth a read is this on sentencing for multiple offences. The rule nowadays is that you start with the sentence that would be passed had the offences been committed today, before making allowances (sometimes) for the maximum sentence at the time. For that reason, the first port of call is the Sentencing Guidelines for Sexual Offences 2014.

It is perhaps best to group the offences by victim :

  • A – 6 months
  • B – 9 months
  • C – 42 months (3½ years)
  • D – 12 months

Having seen the details of the sentencing, we would say that for offending today Mr Harris would receive as follows :

  • A – 12 months
  • B – 9 months
  • C – 120 months (10 years)
  • D – 24 months (2 years)

Totality would come into play of course, and we would have thought that the total sentence would have been about 11 years, so double the actual sentence. That is before some discount for his age, health and other circumstances.

 

 

What about the child pornography?

Eagle eyed readers of the news will remember that Mr Harris was at one point charged with four offences relating to indecent images of children. This then dropped off the radar, why was that?

The Guardian has a very good explanation of why these allegations did not feature in the trial. We may do a longer piece on the issues round this but, in brief, Mr Harris denied the allegations and there were various investigation ongoing to establish the ages of the people depicted (a difficult area). The Guardian reports that these would not be completed by the time of the trial and, for that reason, they were separated to be tried at a later date.

Presumably they were not referred to in the media before then as it was felt that they were unduly prejudicial to the main trial.

The prosecution decided that there was sufficient public interest in pursuing the indecent images and so they have been left to lie on the file.

 

Other Orders

  • Mr Harris will be required to sign on to the Sex Offenders Register for the remainder of his life
  • He will have to pay costs – that will be assessed later, but will be substantial
  • The provisions of the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act apply automatically
  • There was no order for compensation

 

Conclusion

There will be an appeal – Mr Harris has nothing to lose. One thing about sentencing for historic offences is that nobody is satisfied. On the one hand it is lenient, in that it is around half of what he would get now. On the other hand, it is very severe, as it is probably about four times or so what he would have got had he been sentenced at the time.

 

Rolf Harris leaving his house by boat on the day of sentence - Independent

Rolf Harris leaving his house by boat on the day of sentence – Independent

Alan Crickmore – Court of Appeal refuse permission and BBC get it wrong

BBC

BBC

We çovered the case of Alan Crickmore, the coroner and former solicitor who pleaded guilty to stealing about 2 million pounds from dead clients. When he entered his plea, we predicted (correctly) that he would get hammered, but incorrectly gave a guess of about 5 years.

When he was sentenced, he actually got 8 years. We indicated that we would keep an eye out for an appeal and, on 1st July 2014, the Court of Appeal heard an appeal against sentence. Or at least that’s how the news report reads.

In fact, this was an application for permission to appeal. Openshaw J said that the sentence was ‘just and appropriate’ and refused permission. Mr Crickmore can, and probably will, renew his application to appeal. This means he has an oral hearing before the full court where the court considers again whether he should have permission to appeal. We will have a look if and when this happens.

We originally thought this was a written application (as is common) although someone at the Judiciary very helpfully pointed out that in fact, there was an oral hearing. That said, it was still a permission hearing – not an appeal.

Anyway, the BBC. The headline states “Coroner Alan Crickmore loses appeal to reduce sentence for £2m theft“. For the reasons stated, this is wrong. A better headline would have been “Coroner Alan Crickmore refused permission to appeal sentence for £2m theft“or something like that. Perhaps it is picky…but in law, without detail, we are nowhere.