On 10th July 2015 Robert Ewing, 60, was convicted on murdering Paige Chivers, a 15 year old school girl in August 2007. On 28th July 2015, Mr Ewing was sentenced to life with a tariff of 33 years.
A friend of his, 46 year old Gareth Dewhurst, was jailed for a total of 8 years for Assisting an Offender and Perverting the Course of Justice.
The facts, at least as reported in the BBC, are not particularly clear. It seems that Paige had quite an unstable home life, which Mr Ewing took advantage of by grooming her.
Mr “Ewing was described as a “devious” paedophile who murdered Paige to stop her reporting their sexual contact.”
Paige’s body has not been recovered, but the Prosecution were able to prove that she was dead by providing circumstantial evidence that there was “no evidence Paige was alive and she never claimed a “significant” inheritance sum left to her after her mother’s death“.
There was forensic evidence that Paige’s blood was in Mr Ewing’s flat. It is likely that there was plenty of other circumstantial evidence that pointed towards Mr Ewing as the murderer.
Mr Dewhurst appears to have got involved after the murder, helping Mr Ewing dispose of the body. Both Mr Ewing and Mr Dewhurst were convicted of Perverting the Course of Justice by intimidating witnesses – it’s not clear what this relates to.
For Mr Ewing there was a mandatory life sentence. We have a fact sheet that deals with how a Judge approaches setting the tariff – the minimum period of time that someone has to spend in prison before they can be released.
On the facts, it would appear that this was a murder ‘intended to obstruct or interfere with the course of justice‘, which attracts a starting point of 30 years. Here, the background of sexual activity and the disposal of the body so that it hasn’t been found is an aggravating feature which is more than enough to increase the starting point to 33 years.
In fact, we would not have been surprised with a higher tariff; something in the region of 35-40 years.
Why did Mr Ewing not get a ‘whole life tariff’? After all, a whole life tariff is the starting point if the case involves the ‘murder of a child if involving the abduction of the child or sexual or sadistic motivation‘ – isn’t that what happened here?
It is probably the case that the murder itself was not motivated by a sexual desire on the part of Mr Ewing, so that would not apply. Also, although there are issues to what an extent a 15 year old can consent to activity that may count as kidnapping.
So, it would appear that Mr Ewing’s case did not (quite) fit into the whole life category. But an increase from the starting point of 30 years was certainly justified.
As far as Mr Dewhurst is concerned, it is difficult to comment exactly without knowing exactly what he did, but whilst it is a severe sentence, we doubt that an appeal against sentence would be successful for either of them.
In many ways, it is pretty academic for Mr Ewing whether his sentence was moved up or down by a few years. Almost nobody gets out of prison ‘on tariff’ (at the end of the minimum period). Mr Ewing is 60. If his tariff were reduced to 30 years, or increased to 35, the reality is that he will only be released, if at all, at the very end of his life as an act of mercy.