Thomas Mair get whole life sentence for killing Jo Cox MP

Thomas Mair get whole life sentence for killing Jo Cox MP



The murder, and we can now call it murder officially, of Jo Cox, the MP for Batley and Spen on 16th June 2016 shocked the UK and the world. It was, in effect, a political assassination which is not something that, fortunately, we see very often.

On 23rd November 2016 Thomas Mair was convicted of his murder.



Following a successful stint as head of policy and advocacy at Oxfam GB, Jo Cox was elected to Parliament in 2015 General Election.

On 16th June 2016 she was attending a scheduled constituency event when she was attacked by Thomas Mair, a 52 year man armed with a knife and a shotgun.

Ms Cox was stabbed by Mr Mair and fell to the ground. Mr Mair then shot and stabbed her further. A bystander, 77 year old Bernard Carter-Kenny tried to intervene and was stabbed.

Although he survived, Ms Cox sadly died later in hospital.

During the attack, Mr Mair was heard to be shouting ‘Britain First’ – the name of a far right political party.

Mr Mair was assessed as sane, and not suffering from any mental issues that would reduce his culpability to manslaughter. He refused to co-operate with the Court to the extent of not entering a plea, and so a Not Guilty plea was entered on his behalf. His trial started at the Old Bailey on 16th November 2016.

He did not put forward any defence, so it was perhaps not a great surprise when he was found guilty by the jury in double quick time of the murder of Ms Cox, the wounding with intent of Mr Carter-Kenny, possession of a firearm with intent, and possession of an offensive weapon (the knife).



The only sentence for murder is one of life imprisonment. We have a factsheet that explains how the Judge will approach the last of setting a tariff (the minimum period of time that Mr Mair will have to serve in prison before he could be considered for release).

We said that it would appear to have been “a murder done for the purpose of advancing a political, religious, racial or ideological cause“, which would normally attract a whole life tariff. The reason for this being seen in the words shouted by Mr Mair when he killed Ms Cox.

We have the sentencing remarks which, as always, bears reading in full. The Judge (Wilkie J) set out his reasons very clearly for finding that “the murder was carried out to advance a political cause of violent white supremacism, associated with Nazism” and was one which required a whole life tariff, notwithstanding that Mr Mair was a man of good character.

In the circumstances of this case, we would not expect any appeal against either conviction or sentence to be successful.

This means that Mr Mair will never be released, unless on compassionate grounds at the end of his life.


Photo from the BBC
Photo from the BBC

This post will be updated throughout the day as more information becomes available



  1. Are we allowed to ask why Mair was not allowed to make a statement before sentencing?
    Is this usually the case or is he being treated unfairly?

  2. I’m not sure what you mean, Bernard. His counsel was heard in mitigation.

    If you mean “Did the judge ask whether he had anything to say why sentence should not be passed according to law” you have watched too many films. Long ago that was the chance of the prisoner at the bar (as he was called in treason and felony – defendant in misdemeanour cases) to claim benefit of clergy – which meant that he was able to recite while pretending to read the first five verses of the fifty-first Psalm. If he could, he was released – but first he was supposed to be burnt in the thumb so that he could not do it again (although the “burning” was commonly done with a cold iron) which is why before being asked to plead prisoners were required to hold up their hands. Your hand was your criminal record. None of this applied in misdemeanour, which included some serious offences such as manslaughter, bigamy and perjury.

    The practice of giving the prisoner a final chance to speak lingered long after it became meaningless: Roger Casement made a speech from the dock in 1916. But it disappeared for good in 1967 when the distinction between felony and misdemeanour was abolished and the practice in msdemeanour was applied to all trials on indictment.

  3. Thank you Andrew for that very interesting reply.
    My reason for asking, was that I had just read in the Guardian –
    “Mr Justice Wilkie refused Mair’s request to address the court”, and I wondered
    if this was unusual? Mair obviously wanted to say something and as he had said
    nothing during the whole trial, he may or may not here, have explained his motive.

  4. Its was a terrible act and quite rightly the offender will not see the light of day again. However, I was a little uneasy regarding the comments from the judge. White supremacists, Nazism ? I think these terms are used far too easily and flippantly to sensationalise events.

    The offender said nothing as I understand it throughout the trial, so the judge may think he knows the motives and his affiliations, but surely he’s just guessing based on the fact that he apparently shouted “Britain First” during the attack. That could mean a multitude of things but equating it to Nazism is a leap.

  5. El , thank you for the link. I have read through the remarks and I still have the same views as per my previous comment. Nazism encompassed a number of different beliefs many of which led to terrible acts such as the Holocaust, human experimentation etc. This is why I think reference to it is wrong. Sure, the murder by Mair was a terrible act and an assault on democracy but xenophobic, racist and political I think more than Nazism. The events unfolded against a background of the EU referendum vote where Cox was very much in the Remain camp and also was a staunch campaigner for Syrian refugees and immigrants in general. I think this was probably more to do with Mair’s motives.