In 2012 Jeffrey Goodwyn, a seemingly unrepentant and dangerous paedophile (with a previous conviction for rape of a child), was sentenced to IPP (Imprisonment for Public Protection) for an offence of indecent assault that had occurred sometime before May 2004. Spot the problem? The Judge didn’t.
On 9th December 2014, the Court of Appeal quashed the sentence of IPP, replacing it with an Extended Sentence of 3 years, plus a 5 year extension period. This meant that because of the amount of time that he has spent in custody, Mr Goodwyn was released from Court.
Why did the Court do that – surely he’s too dangerous to be released?
Because they had no choice – the sentence passed was unlawful. Basically, IPPs were introduced in the Criminal Justice Act 2003 and first became lawful on 4th April 2005. Therefore, such a sentence can only be passed if the offence occurred after that date. It is a basic rule of law that you cannot be sentenced for something that wasn’t an offence at the time that it was committed, or to a sentence that was not lawful at the time.
For that reason, the Judge was not allowed to pass a sentence, it would be similar to passing a sentence of death, it simply was not an available sentence. Whilst this may seem that Mr Goodwyn ‘got away with’ something here on a technicality, when you think about it, it’s obviously right that the Court had to intervene – if the Courts don’t stick to the law, why should anyone else?
What was the sentence?
We don’t know the original sentence, but we imagine the Judge felt that the offence (of which there are no real details) merited 3 years in prison, hence the tariff for the IPP was set at 18 months.
The Court clearly thought that Mr Goodwyn met the test for dangerousness, and therefore imposed an Extended Sentence. The amount of time that he had to serve under the Extended Sentence was longer than the minimum period of time that he would have had to serve under the IPP, but the reality is that with an IPP sentence, he would not have been released anytime soon.
How did this happen?
In short, we don’t know. It may be that there are facts that we don’t know, but it is surprising if a Judge and both lawyers missed the fact that the sentence was unlawful.
In this day and age of what appears to be a state of permanent revolution when it comes to sentencing, it is actually relatively easy for something to be missed in the sentencing process. It is rare for it to go so wrong that the whole of a sentence is unlawful. As said though, we don’t know the circumstances of the case, or the full facts, so there’s not too much we can say about this now.
We would say that it took a surprisingly long time to come to the Court of Appeal – 2½ years is far too long, which would suggest that the error was not picked up into much further down the line however.