On 5th September 2016 Edward Vines, a 46 year old contemporary of Emily Maitlis, was jailed for 3 years for breaching a Restraining Order imposed for the benefit of the journalist.
On the face of it, this seems a very long sentence, especially for breaches that contained no actual violence. But is this over the top?
Facts and Trial
It would appear that Mr Vines has made Ms Maitlis’s life a living hell for the last 25 years.
They met at university in 1990 and started a friendship. At some point, Mr Vines told Ms Maitlis that he loved her. It seems that after that she broke off the friendship.
But it seems that whilst Ms Maitlis moved on, Mr Vines certainly did not. Since then, he has had an ‘ongoing obsession’ with Ms Maitlis.
There has clearly been previous unwanted contact, which has lead to at least one Restraining Order that Mr Vines has breached on five previous occasions.
This time, Mr Vines was up for four breaches of the Order. Two he pleaded guilty to, and for two he had a trial.
It seems that the breaches were sending two letters to Ms Maitlis and (presumably two) other emails and letters to her mother.
It is not clear which ones he pleaded guilty to and which were the trial, but at a guess he pleaded guilty to the letters sent directly to Ms Maitlis.
The defence was not promising. Mr Vines accepted the breach (the indirect contact), but put forward a ‘reasonable excuse’, namely that he had ‘no alternative’ but to contact her to get Ms Maitlis to explain why the friendship had broken down.
The fact that there was a trial by jury implies the Judge accepted that this was capable of amounting to a reasonable excuse. In that, Mr Vines was perhaps lucky – many judges may have concluded that this could no possibly amount to a defence.
But whatever legal argument there was, the jury returned guilty verdicts pretty quickly.
Mr Vines got 18 months for the two breaches that he admitted, but consecutive to 18 months for the two on which he had a trial, making a total of 3 years.
How did the Judge come to that? The starting point would be the Sentencing Guidelines (see the table on page 13).
On the face of it, it would be the second category in box 1, giving a starting point of 26-39 weeks.
Why, then, the big jump to 3 years? Here, we need to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. And that, as the Court of Appeal sometimes says, ‘guidelines are just that, guidelines not tramlines‘.
Because of the extremely lengthy history, and the complete refusal of Mr Vines to accept that the time for any indulgence of his behaviour is at least 20 years overdue, the Judge was perfectly entitled to go above the guidelines.
In light of all of this, the sentence passed is one that we would expect to be upheld on any appeal. Although we would normally expect there to be a longer sentence to those offences where there was a trial, it may well be the case that those breaches involved indirect contact, and were therefore seen as less serious.
Another point to note is that when he appeared in Court, Mr Vines “was flanked in the dock by nurses from the secure hospital where he currently resides“. No further details are given as to when and why he was admitted to hospital, but presumably what ever condition he has, it was not such as to warrant a Mental Health Act disposal.