On 31st January 2016 the police found the body of 20 year old India Chipchase under a plastic sheet in a house belonging to Edward Tenniswood in Northamptonshire. The cause of death was asphyxia.
On 2nd August 2016 Mr Tenniswood, a 52 year old ‘oddball’, was found guilty of her rape and murder and sentenced to life imprisonment.
In the early hours of 30th January, Ms Chipcase, who had been out in a nightclub in Northampton and was very drunk (her blood alcohol limit was three times the drink drive limit), was spotted by Mr Tenniswood.
He approached her and “put his arm around her“, although witnesses said that there was no reciprocation.
After 20 minutes or so, Mr Tenniswood lead Ms Chipcase to a taxi and took her back to his house. There he raped and strangled her.
Mr Tenniswood denied both offences, saying that Ms Chipcase was a willing participant in the sexual activity, and “he had throttled Miss Chipchase a result of his “over-eagerness” in bed.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the jury did not accept this, finding Mr Tenniswood guilty unanimously after less than two hours of deliberation (a very short time for something as serious as a murder case).
The only sentence for murder is life imprisonment, the question for the Judge was what the tariff – the minimum period of time that Mr Tenniswood would have to spend in prison before he can be considered for release, was.
Here, the starting point is 30 years due to the fact that the murder involved ‘sexual conduct’.
We don’t have the sentencing remarks, but from the news reports, Mr Tenniswood received a tariff of 30 years. This is what we would have expected.
There was a concurrent sentence of 12 years for the rape. Why concurrent? Put simply, this is because the 30 year starting point reflects the conduct that founded the charge of rape.
The Judge would therefore have taken the starting point of 30 years and looked at the aggravating and mitigating features, to see whether to go up or down from that.
We wil have a look at it again if and when the Sentencing Remarks are published, but the Judge heard the trial and would have been well placed to assess the various factors.
There will probably be an appeal – Mr Tenniswood has little to lose, but there is nothing wrong with the sentence on the face of it.
In some ways, it is all pretty academic. As Mr Tenniswood is 52, this means that he will not be able to be even considered for release until he is 82. In reality, almost nobody gets out ‘on tariff’ so a year or so on the minimum term probably won’t make much of a difference. It is likely that Mr Tenniswood will die in prison.