Lewis Daynes, 19, receives 25-year minimum term for murder of Breck Bednar,...

Lewis Daynes, 19, receives 25-year minimum term for murder of Breck Bednar, 14

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Last year, we covered the story of Lewis Daynes, a 19 year old computer engineer. Late last year, Daynes  (18 at the time of the offence) pleaded guilty to the murder of Breck Bednar, a 14 year old boy. Breck was found stabbed to death after stating that he was going out for a sleepover with a friend.

Lewis Daynes and Breck Bednar met via an online gaming site; they spoke via software that operated like a telephone conference call. Over time, Daynes manipulated Breck and Breck’s personality began to change. Aware that Breck had been conversing with a person online, Breck’s mother had expressed concerns about the influence that the person had had on his personality, and in due course contacted the police.

Subsequently, Breck got into a taxi, paid for by Daynes, and travelled to Daynes’ flat in Grays. Daynes had given Breck instructions as to what to tell his parents, telling him to tell them that he was going to stay the night at a 14 year old friend’s house (using a false name).

Breck was murdered by Daynes at his flat; Daynes telephoned the emergency services the following morning, giving a false account as to what had happened.

Daynes claimed his victim had grabbed a penknife on morning of 17 December and had tried to attack him after “losing control”. He said he had stabbed Breck “in the back of the neck, near the brain stem” and the struggle had ended with Daynes cutting Breck’s throat.

But when police arrived, they found Breck had been tied up with duct tape, and Daynes’ phones, hard drives and pen drives – which were all encrypted – had been immersed in water.

He refused to give police access to passwords to any of the devices.

See this BBC report for more details.

Sentence

The only sentence available for murder is life. Daynes received a 25-year minimum term. The BBC reported that this was a sentence of life imprisonment, however, due to Daynes’ age, it was a sentence of custody for life.

Starting points are governed by Sch.21 to the Criminal Justice Act 2003. For those under 18 at the time of the offence, the starting point is 12 years. For those over 18, it is either 15, 25, 30 or whole life. Having said that, there is obviously not a “cliff edge” when someone turns 18, and therefore one would expect that a sentence for murder committed by a 17 year old and an 18 year old would not be miles apart, notwithstanding the potentially enormous difference between the statutory starting points. As ever, the judge is required to consider all the factors and impose a just sentence.

So what happened here? Well the judge was sure that the murder involved sadistic or sexual motivation; we have no details as to why that was, but we do know that there had been a previous rape complaint made against Daynes by another boy. The finding that the murder involved sexual or sadistic motivation means that the appropriate starting point was 30 years. Originally, we said that the starting point should have been whole life, however Jonathan Bild, a lecturer at Cambridge, pointed out that whilst whole life is the correct starting point for the murder of a child involving sexual motivation, the whole life starting point does not apply to defendants aged under 21 at the time of the offence. Therefore, 30 years is the starting point and we thank Jon for pointing out the error.

We have not seen any sentencing remarks but can safely assume there was a reduction made for his age and his guilty plea (although reports that he pleaded guilty appear to have disappeared from several news sites).

Even without the sentencing remarks and a full account of all the facts, it is evident that this was a very serious murder. The aggravating features of coercion, manipulation and deception are manifest and the vulnerability of the victim along with the trust he placed in Daynes mean that the sentence imposed in this case was always going to be very high. It appears then, that the ultimate question for the judge was how much to reduce the sentence by for Daynes’ age and guilty plea.

The reduction for a guilty plea is limited to 1/6 or 5 years, however in cases where the evidence was overwhelming, or a plea is very late, judges can reduce this credit. In this case, it appears that Daynes pleaded on the day of his trial and so the judge may have significantly reduced this credit (although in some cases, judges do give more credit than they have to as a reflection of the plea avoiding the family of the victim having to undergo the ordeal of a trial). As for his age, that is far more problematic and to an extent depends on his maturity and other such factors.

For what was a very serious example of murder, 25 years seems to be an appropriate sentence, considering Daynes’ age and guilty plea. That said, don’t discount an appeal; there isn’t much to lose.

4 COMMENTS

  1. (Comment from an interested layman with no legal training.)

    Per my comment made to your earlier post, I do not see why there should have been a reduction for his age, as the statutory starting point already reflects his age.

    I suppose it could possibly be argued that this only applies if the 30 year starting point was on the basis of sexual motivation, in which case where the starting point would have been a whole-life term for an offender over 21. The judge has said that exactly what went on may never be known, and perhaps an alternative explanation consistent with the proven facts would be that he committed the murder without sadistic or sexual motivation in itself but to cover up for a sadistic or sexual act already completed. This would give rise to a 30-year starting point on account of attempt to pervert the course of justice, but that starting point would apply equally to any offender over the age of 18. In that case, his youth would not have been reflected in the starting point, so would become available for mitigation.

    However, I don’t think that the argument in the previous paragraph would really change anything, because in that scenario the sexual activity would also not already have been taken into account so would become an additional aggravating factor, leading to a similar overall result.

  2. I’d be really interested to know what it takes to make the police take action. Breck’s is mother went to the trouble of alerting them to the danger they could have had a look at their records or even monitored the on-line community concerned. It seems to me this murder was preventable.

    On a separate point why can’t silence be taken as an inference of guilt, at least in court, maybe suspects don’t want to talk to the police but surely in court, if innocent, you speak up.

  3. I hope someone gets a hold of him as n prison and tortures him like he tortured Lewis, then I hope he re lives that same torture every minute of every hour in hell, where he belongs.

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