In January 2014 Steven Miles, then aged 16, stabbed and dismembered his girlfriend, Elizabeth Thomas. He later pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced on 2nd October 2014 to the mandatory life sentence, but with a tariff – the minimum period of time that has to be served before he can be considered for release, of 25 years.
In fact, he wasn’t sentenced to life imprisonment at all – hopefully. Someone aged under 21 cannot be sent to prison, but youth detention. In this case, the sentence would/should have been one of detention at HM’s pleasure, but we know what the BBC meant…
The facts are scant, and the news reports leave more questions than answers. We are told that Steven “had been diagnosed as having an autistic syndrome, told his family that a voice in his head named Ed told him to kill someone.
He used tools from his father’s tree surgeon business to cut up his girlfriend’s body before wrapping her dismembered limbs and placing them in bin bags.
When Miles’ sister returned to the family’s flat about an hour after the murder, he told her “Ed made me do something bad.”
The court was told Miles had a fascination with horror movies and had wanted to copy the actions of Dexter, the main character in an American TV series about a police forensics officer who is also a serial killer“.
The only sentence available was life, the question was the length of the tariff. The Judge stated, which is clear, that “This is a case of the utmost gravity, the horrific features of which are rarely heard in any court.”
Because of Steven’s age (under 18), the starting point was 12 years, as set out in Sch.21 to the CJA 2003. That’s a significant point to remember when assessing the sentence. It is quite clear that the crime was a brutal one that merited an increase in the starting point and, quite possibly, a substantial increase.
However, given that he pleaded guilty, a minimum term of 25 years would indicate a starting point of 30 years. This is more in line with what would be expected for an adult who carried out the same crime (even then, it would appear to be too long).
The sentence passed equates to an increase of 2½ times the starting point. That would seem to be significantly too long. On the face of what is set out above (and before taking into account any mitigation), we would expect a tariff of about 16-18 years after the plea of guilty as being the top of the range sentence given the plea.
It may be, of course, that there are matters that we don’t know about. Hopefully the full sentencing remarks will be published so that we can assess the sentence better. In the absence of some other feature, we would expect an appeal, and expect it to be successful.