In Jersey today, Damian Rzeszowski was sentenced to 30 years in prison for killing six people on one day last year. In a frenzied attack in the space of 15 minutes he killed his wife, both children, father in law as well as a friend of his wife and her daughter. We don’t have the full sentencing remarks (although the ruling on a voir dire contains much of the details of the offence). Why did he get this? Was it too short or too long?
Firstly, it should be noted that this was a determinate sentence of 30 years rather than a life sentence. This is because he was convicted of manslaughter (which he had previously admitted) rather than murder.
More importantly, it should be noted that the offences were committed and tried in Jersey. The exact constitutional position is complicated, but it is not part of the UK and not governed by English Law. Some aspects are similar to, if not identical to, English Law, whilst others are completely different. The Jersey law of manslaughter is different to the current English law, but is similar. The Court concluded at Mr Rzeszowski’s trial that, due to his mental state at the time, his responsibility was diminished.
The sentencing law is different in Jersey also. Mr Rzeszowski will be eligible for release after 20 years and will automatically be released after 30 years.
There are no real guidelines for sentencing for manslaughter in Jersey (in part because homocides are so rare). The sentence is probably not out of line with what would be expected in England, save that the chances of an indeterminate sentence in England would be much much higher (there is no IPP in Jersey).
No general conclusions can be drawn from a case such as this, partly because it is so unusual, and partly because it is in a different legal jurisdiction. A further difference is that, in Jersey, the prosecution can recommend a sentence to the Court and this sets the parameters of the sentencing decision. Here, the prosecution called for a determinate sentence.