In 1993 Mr Ash-Smith, then aged 25, stabbed Ms Tiltman, then aged 16, nine times. As to the motive, Mr Ash-Smith had “described himself as an “animal”, plagued by a hatred of women whom he said “humiliated” him. Asked why he attacked, he said: “I wanted to feel empowered, that I had control over someone, that I wasn’t a doormat.”
It is important to note that “In 1988, he attempted to rape and murder a young mother in a quarry and in 1995 he stabbed 22-year-old Charlotte Barnard 14 times, just yards from where he killed Claire“. For this he received three life sentences, with a 15 year tariff.
That was 19 years ago and he had not been released. He was, in fact, arrested in February 2014 coincidentally (or most likely not) the day of his Parole Board hearing.
This was a difficult sentencing exercise because of all the changes in the criminal law since then, and the fact that some allowance had to be made for the time that Mr Ash-Smith had been in custody.
We have the sentencing remarks, which is always helpful. The Judge decided that if the offence was committed now, the tariff would have started at 25 years. That seems, if anything, generous in that it would have been hard to argue with a 30 year starting point.
It may not matter as the Judge considered that the aggravating features would have taken it up to 30 years in any event.
So far, so good. The problem is that at the time Mr Ash-Smith would have received a tariff with a starting point of 16 years. We would have thought that the aggravating features would have taken the tariff up to 18-20 years.
It seems that Mr Ash-Smith’s lawyer said that the tariff for this murder, and the other offences, would not have exceeded 40 years. On that basis, the Judge set the tariff at 21 years.
We would have thought that the tariff at the time would have been much higher than the 18-20 years had it just been the murder of Ms Tiltman. However it is hard to see that it would have been more than 25 years, and certainly not likely to be more than 30.
It is not a science though, and we would not expect any appeal to succeed, as it is not a mathematical exercise.
It is, in any event, probably academic as even if the tariff for the murder was reduced to 11 years, it is clear that Mr Ash-Smith is a very dangerous man and it is likely that he would spend far longer than that in custody. Whatever the length of the tariff, he will remain in prison until it is safe to release him which may well be never.