Introduction and Facts
David Harris is a 68 year old retired TV Producer who is starting (as of 14th July 2017) a 17 year sentence following his conviction on three counts of soliciting the murder of Hazel Allison, his partner of 27 years.
It is a bit of a convoluted story. Mr Harris seemed to have a perfect relationship with Ms Allison, sharing an £800,000 Sussex home with her and be heading to a relaxing retirement. However, for 5 years he had been conducting an affair with Ugne Cekaviciute, a 28 year old that he met in a brothel.
Mr Harris became infatuated with Ms Cekaviciute, and spent £50,000 or so on her. It seems that he wanted Ms Allison out of the picture, and to get her hands on her money.
To that end he tried on three occasions to hire a hitman to kill Ms Allison and pass it off as a “mugging gone wrong”.
Fortunately, all three attempts were unsuccessful. The first man that he approached declined and tried to warn Ms Allison. The next person that he approached declined and contacted the police. The third person he met up with, and offered £200,000 to to kill his wife, was an undercover officer who videoed the whole conversation.
Given it was on video, it might have been thought that there would be a plea of guilty. But Mr Harris ran a trial, running the defence that he was researching a spy novel based loosely on his own life situation, and was finding out from hitman how a hit would work (his work on The Bill seemingly not have given him enough insight into the criminal underworld).
Perhaps unsurprisingly, this did not convince the jury, who found him guilt on all three counts.
Soliciting to murder (the offence comes from s4 Offences Against the Person Act 1861, hence the slightly archaic language) is an offence that is not that often charged. As such, there is not the sort of guidelines that you often see.
There are guidelines (that are, unusually, set out in statute) for murder, and for Attempted Murder (although these date from 2009, since when sentence have increased), and it is likely that the Judge would turn to these first (although this offences would probably be seen as less serious).
It may depend on whether the offence was committed for gain or not. On the face of it, this was the case, but it may be that the Judge formed the view that the main purpose was to get his partner out of the picture. Either way, it would be likely that the tariff would have been in the region of 25 years.
At a guess however, the Judge would have taken the starting point of the tariff had the murder been committed, converted it to a determinate sentence, and made a reduction to take account of the fact that it was a soliciting rather than attempt. The fact that there were three tries may have lead to a small increase.
On that (fairly rough and ready) calculation, the sentence passed was well within the range that we would expected. As such, although there may well be an appeal because of the unusual features of the case, we doubt that it will be successful.