Lee Rigby's killers lose application to appeal

Lee Rigby's killers lose application to appeal

Photo from the BBC

We have covered various aspects of the Lee Rigby case in the last few years. Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale were convicted of last year of murder and were both sentenced to life imprisonment (whole life and 45 years being their respective tariffs).

On 3rd December 2014, their legal case came to an end. Their applications to appeal their convictions and sentence were refused and that (subject to any application to the CCRC) is the end of the road for them. We would actually put a small caveat to that – it is likely that at some point the UK admit defeat in its attempts to keep whole life tariffs and it may be that Mr Adbolajo gets a determinate sentence at some point in the future.

Mr Adebowale had permission to appeal the length of his tariff, but Mr Adebolajo was trying to renew his application to appeal his conviction and sentence. It is likely that the full judgment will be published in due course, but it is no surprise that the conviction appeal went nowhere (it was described as ‘misconceived and completely hopeless‘, which sounds about right).

The sentence appeals did not get much further, with the Court saying that they were ““just” punishment for the “horrific and barbaric” murder.” Subject to the legality of whole life (and indeed 45 year) tariffs, it is unsurprising that the Court took this view.

One question that has already been asked is why should the tax payer pay for an appeal in these cases? Firstly, it should be noted that this actually only applies to Mr Adebowale. Legal aid will not be granted for a renewed application.

And as to why we pay for Mr Adebowale? Well, because it’s the law, and it’s the right thing to do.  The complaints about legal aid for this are the same complaints that we heard in the 1970s as to why the Birmingham 6, the Guildford 4 etc got legal aid. I’m not comparing them obviously, but the rule of law demands that all people get the same treatment.

In this case, a High Court Judge concluded that it was arguable that Mr Adebowale received a sentence that was outside the range that could lawfully have been imposed. As it turns out, the ‘Full Court’ concluded that the sentence was lawful, but it is right that Mr Adebowale has legal aid to argue this. Not least because we know then that the argument was properly put by a professional, and therefore that justice has been done. In the long run, it was the right thing to happen.

Dan is a barrister at 2 Dr. Johnson’s Buildings practising in crime.


  1. Ok fine why court don’t put a Civil Restraint Orders so they can’t waste public fund and court time. Our judges will use this orders against children and parents who trying to seek justice against corruption and child abuse case by local authorities. Evan they will personally send private latter to telling if parents try to take action against corruption or complaint against court failure of it’s duty judges will send the parents to Jail

  2. It may well be the “right thing to do” but money does not magically appear. I do wonder how much this whole process has cost the taxpayer. Perhaps as someone involved in the law industry the author could estimate the price and we could have an informed debate over whether the money could be better spent elsewhere.

    • It’s difficult to put a price – what do you allow for – the Court costs? Prosecution costs? Police officers who turned up? Defence costs?

      Here, the defence costs are zero for Mr Adebolajo, and the Court and prosecution costs not much more. For Mr Adebowale, the issue was a straightforward one and not much work would have required given his lawyers did the trial. We don’t know whether legal aid was granted for a QC or not, but the costs could easily have been in the region of £2-3,000.

      But the wider point is a good one – we can certainly cut costs by cutting justice. One easy method would be to give everyone in the police station a set of dice and if they rolled a double 6 then they wouldn’t be prosecuted. Would save millions.

  3. I am not surprised by the response. A civil question asking about costs is then reduced to an absurd level. There will always be a balance to be struck on the cost of justice. However clearly the view from someone who takes the taxpayers money is to say that we all need to keep paying and any attempt to see if savings can be made is met with denigration. Saddened but not surprised by the authors reply.

    • I answered the question properly, with a comment at the end that was slightly flippant.

      As to the costs I’ve set out – do you think they are too much?

      The question is how to achieve savings. For me, I want to ensure that innocent people aren’t convicted and that guilty people aren’t acquitted. To have that, you need a properly funded system.

      If you want to reduce costs, the best way is to not prosecute a lot of cases at the lower end.

  4. One way of reducing costs is that you offer those that plea guilty a reduction but as a previous column which reviewed a book on that practice it is fraught with danger.
    Another way may be looking at how we operate our system with barristers and solicitors which seems archaic to an outsider like me.
    However my non expert opinion is that the best way to reduce costs is look how a court operates. People have mentioned about lenghty delays, adjournments and other factors which if we took a long hard look could and should be reduced. With significant savings.

    • On guilty pleas, this certainly reduces costs. There are problems, but we are going down this route anyway, and at least that is formalised.

      On barristers and solicitors, I agree there is duplication of costs here (although not as much as you’d think). This is happening.

      The biggest waste is the lengthy delays, adjournments, etc. I completely agree that this needs to be clamped down on. It is the defence lawyers who are most pushing for this to be sorted out. Unfortunately it costs money to be more efficient unfortunately.