We covered the case of Tania Clarence – a mother who killed three of her four children earlier this year – when the CPS accepted a plea of guilty to manslaughter last month.
On 18th November 2014 she was sentenced by Sweeney J to a Hospital Order.
We said that the sentences for this offence are wider than most, and that this would be a difficult sentencing exercise. The Judge has published the sentencing remarks, which are very well constructed – definitely worth a read.
He said that it was clearly a case of manslaughter (not murder). The psychiatric evidence showed that Ms Clarence was “mentally ill at the time – suffering from a major depressive episode (which is a recognised medical condition) which substantially impaired your ability to form a rational judgement at the time, and is the explanation for your carrying out the killings“.
Against that backdrop, the Judge concluded that she was not ‘dangerous’ within the meaning of the Criminal Justice Act 2003. Further, for similar reason, if a Hospital Order were to be made, then it was not necessary to have restrictions on it.
That left the Judge with the choice of a prison sentence or a Hospital Order. The Judge analysed Ms Clarences’s history and set out in detail what lead to the position of her carrying out the killing. He concluded that her culpability was very low. For those reasons, which seem entirely right on the analysis that the Judge conducted, Ms Clarence was made the subject of a Hospital Order.
How long she will spend in Hospital is impossible to say – it depends on how well she responds to treatment. It could be months, it could be many years. It will probably be somewhere in between.