It’s not been a great day for lawyers in Court, with a prominent barrister being found guilty of Perverting the Course of Justice. Much more seriously (and less in the public eye) was the case of Thomas Blazques. Mr Blazques was a long standing clerk at the Crown Prosecution Service before taking voluntary redundancy in 2012.
In September of last year for reasons that are unclear (he told a psychiatrist that “he killed the grandmother ‘to teach her a lesson’ after she twice refused to pay him back £30 he lent her”), he “went to her home armed with a nylon rope, duct tape, a knife and a sandwich for lunch … After tying her up and stuffing a large handkerchief into her mouth he dragged her upstairs.
He then rained heavy blows on her head and face, leaving her with a broken nose and cuts to her scalp, as well as multiple rib fractures.”
Mr Blazquez then locked himself in the bathroom and cut his wrists. At trial he admitted the killing, but said that it was manslaughter because of diminished responsibility. The jury today (1st May 2014) rejected that unanimously and found him guilty of murder.
There is only one sentence for murder – life imprisonment. The question for the Judge is the length of the ‘tariff’ – the minimum period of time that the person will have to spend in prison before they can be considered for release. In this case the Judge set it at 18 years*.
Here, the starting point is 15 years. The Judge noted that the victim was vulnerable because of her age and was in her own home. There was also a brutal and senseless attack. These factors outweighed the mitigating features – the fact that this was not planned and Mr Blazquez was not intending to kill her initially.
One thing that is not clear is whether there was any mental illness that would mitigate the offence (it was out of character, particularly for a 52 year old man with no criminal history). It would appear surprising if not, but this is not mentioned.
Without knowing more details, it is not possible to give a fully informed comment. On the face of it, this is one of those cases where a Judge could give a tariff of 13-19 years without much difficulty, depending on his or her assessment of the case.
On the bare facts, it would seem to me to be a little high (I would have thought 16 years would have been more in fitting with the statutory scheme), but certainly not manifestly excessive on the face of it. The Court of Appeal would no doubt say that it was the Judge who heard the case who was in the best position to assess the proper sentence (they might even say that about people like me who offer commentary from a distance). An appeal is likely, because there is no point in Mr Blazquez not appealing, but I doubt it will be successful.
*Please note that this sentence was added later following comments below the line.