Michael Cope jailed for life for murder of former partner

Michael Cope jailed for life for murder of former partner

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Michael Cope, who has been named by police as the main suspect in the murder of Linzi Ashton

Facts

In June 2013 Michael Cope, a man with a history of violence, killed his former partner Linzi Ashton. This was a few weeks after he had attacked her causing her Actual Bodily Harm.

The killing was brutal – Mr Cope inflicted 108 separate injuries, with the prosecutor saying that Ms Ashton “had been punched, kicked, stamped on, cut with a blade, beaten with a metal pole and strangled with a cable tie.

After killing her, Mr Cope tidied the scene (the suggestion being that he was hiding forensic evidence) and went on the run for a month before handing himself in to the police making (it seems) effective admissions to the killing.

Mr Cope was due to stand trial on 20th January 2014 but pleaded guilty on the day of trial to murder and to the previous ABH.

He was sentenced on 21st January to life imprisonment with a tariff (the minimum amount of period that must be spent in prison) of 27 years.

27 years. Why so long? Or, depending on your view, short?

The only sentence for murder is life imprisonment. The issue for the Judge was how long the tariff should be. We have a factsheet on the four starting points here.

We don’t have the sentencing remarks (although some of what the sentencing judge said is in the news reports).

Looking at the mitigating features first (because these apply whatever level the murder was), the main mitigating feature is the plea of guilty (and the fact that he handed himself in may also be, albeit less significant).

On the face of it, this was a murder with a 15 year starting point, but aggravated by the level of violence in the murder and the previous violence. However, even without the mitigating features this would not justify an increase to 27 years.

None of the features of a ’30 year’ murder appear to apply. The closest would be ‘sexual or sadistic conduct’, but the Prosecution have accepted that the murder didn’t have a sexual motive and, whilst the murder was extremely brutal, it does not appear to have been ‘sadistic’.

It is possible that the starting point was 25 years because Mr Cope took a knife to the murder site. Even then, this would still not tell us how we got to 27 years.

So, the reason for the sentence is unclear. We would expect a credit of about 15% because although the plea was entered on the day of trial it appears that the killing had been accepted previously and the Court was awaiting a psychiatric report.

Comment

We would have expected, on the facts, to have a starting point of 15 years increased to about 20-24 years to take account of the brutal nature of the attack, the ABH and the previous violence, reduced by about 3 years because of the plea of guilty, so a tariff of about 18-21 years.

This is miles away from the actual tariff, so we would assume that the Judge has taken a starting point of 30 years and reduced it by 3 for the plea. This is higher than we would expect on the guidelines and we would expect there to be an appeal.

Hopefully this will be clarified by publishing the Sentencing Remarks. If and when that happens we will come back to this to see where we went wrong.

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

13 COMMENTS

  1. This feral gendered animal was not tried for the rape, as alleged by the late Linzi Ashton. Why not? The Judge ordered that it lie on file, big deal, for his now dead victim. The rules of ‘justice’ seem bizarre, idiotic and unjust.

  2. I’m not sure which definition of sadistic Dan is basing himself on, but I can distinguish a goodly number of characteristics in the published reports which would lead me towards such a conclusion.

    • Vile? Yes. Disgustingly violent? Yes. But using the definition of obtaining sexual gratification from the violence? Doesn’t seem that it was. I do remember there was a Court of Appeal case that had a wider definition of sadistic that may cover this, but can’t remember the name …

      • Dan, where I would take issue with you is regarding your linking of sadism exclusively to obtaining sexual gratification from the acts of violence evidenced here. “Sadism” is well defined as a personality disorder (and sexual sadism is a sub-category), but if you look at the description given in the following (reputable) link, by way of example (http://www.psychnet-uk.com/x_new_site/personality_psychology/a_diagnostic_criteria/criteria_personality_sadistic.html) I think you might agree that there are a number of factors that at the very least overlap.

        • I understand that, it’s a difficult area. From memory, when it was passed it was supposed to be sexual sadism, but Courts have widened it take account of extreme violence. Problem with description in the link is that most murders have some of those characteristics?

          We’ll see, I guess the Court must have taken this as sadistic so as to give a 30 year starting point. Still gives a slightly high sentence as the aggravating features are swallowed up in the 30 year tariff.

  3. Could it be that it was pushed up to 27 years by the act of cleaning up the murder site, ie; the act of concealing evidence ? Just a thought !

    • You are right that that is an aggravating feature that I should have included… Don’t think it adds much to the overall criminality (especially as he handed himself in and accepted responsibility)?

  4. Liberte, there are obvious difficulties in trying a rape case if the main witness is for any reason not there – even if she is dead from natural causes and there have been such cases. It would not have added to the sentence.

    Let him rot for the murder.

  5. I’m opposite to poster Andrew. I do care how long he rots. Longer the better, IMO.

    Presume ably, the Judge is making clear when he wants Cope to be allowed back into society.

  6. Top Do Gooder: I don’t think we disagree. What I said was that a sentence for rape would have been concurrent: not that it should have been. And as judges always make clear when they weigh off a lifer: 27 years is the minimum time before he can apply for parole:not the time after which he will get it. It’s not like a determinate sentence when the offender must be released at the end of it no matter how likely it is that he will do it again.

  7. Hope he rots in hell . Linzi was a lovely girl with a lovely family that have to suffer her loss at the hands of utter scum

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