Like many 20 year olds, Samantha Houlgrave liked a party. She took it a bit far though last year. Towards the end of a party after much alcohol had been drunk, Samuel Madden stated that he was going to go home and was taking his booze with him.
Ms Houlgrave took exception to this, and stabbed Mr Madden with a nine inch kitchen knife. She was charged with s18 – wounding with intent to cause really serious harm. She had a trial, her defence being that she went to push Mr Madden away, forgetting that she had the knife that she had earlier picked up off the garden still in her hands.
That doesn’t sound the most promising of defences, so it’s perhaps not surprising that she was convicted by the jury.
Ms Houlgrave did not endear herself after being sentenced when she had a smuggled in fag in the cells downstairs, causing the fire alarms to go off. It seems that she was threatened with contempt, but no action was taken.
There are Sentencing Guidelines (page 4). It’s certainly not Lesser Harm, and probably counts as Greater Harm due to the seriousness of the injuries (he needed surgery to repair ‘nicks’ to his organs, and has permanent scarring).
The use of a weapon indicates Higher Culpability, but would be balanced by the fact that this appears to have been a fairly spontaneous incident. To my mind, the fact that this was a drunken incident makes it less serious, but that is not the general view.
In light of that, although it does not fit nearly into any of the categories (it rarely does), I would have thought it fits best at the top end of Category 2, for a starting point of 6 years with a range of 5-9 years. On that basis, I would have expected a sentence of 7-8 years. The Judge oversaw the trial however, and I can’t imagine that the Court of Appeal will interfere with the sentence.
Why the confusion over length?
The actual sentence was an Extended Sentence, rather than a Determinate one. This means that the Judge must have determined that Ms Houlgrave was ‘dangerous’. It means that the appropriate custodial sentence is 10 years, but she has an extra 3 years on licence after release.
There is a sting in the tail however. As she is serving an extended sentence of 10 years, she will have to go before the Parole Board being released, and this only after she has served 2/3 of the 10 year sentence. This means she will not be able to be released until she has served 6 1/3 years.
One point that the Court of Appeal has still not resolved (wilfully avoiding it presumably) is whether, in a case like this, the length of the custodial sentence should be reduced to account for the different release provisions. To my mind it should be, and the correct sentence here would have been 7½ years, with an extended licence period of 5 years (the maximum).