Following their conviction last Thursday, Gary Smith and Lee Newell were sentenced to ‘whole life tariffs’ for the murder of Subhan Anwar. Mr Smith and Mr Newell were in Long Lartin prison with Mr Anwar last year when they followed their victim to his cell. Inside, Mr Smith and Mr Newell tied Mr Anwar up and strangled him.
At their trial, Mr Smith blamed Mr Newell and vice versa. The Prosecution’s case was that they were ‘in it together’, they were both responsible. The jury, in their verdict, accepted that when they found them both guilty.
The only sentence available to the Judge was life imprisonment, and in this case it is not surprising that the order for a whole life tariff was made (see here for full detail of how a Judge should approach setting the tariff for murder offences). For someone who had previously been convicted of murder (and Mr Smith and Mr Newell were both in prison service life sentences for murder) the starting point is a whole life tariff.
Whilst the Judge is not bound by that, it is only a starting point, in this case the brutality and callousness of the murder, coupled with the lack of any mitigation, meant that the Judge had no reason not to impose the whole life tariff.
There will almost certainly be an appeal (both Mr Smith and Mr Newell have nothing whatsoever to lose) but I wouldn’t be putting any money on it succeeding. In any event, it’s all pretty academic. Given that they are already serving life sentences their chances of release unless they are in the last stages of terminal illness or something similar, are minimal whatever their nominal tariff for this would be.
You may have heard from the news that the ECHR have ‘outlawed’ whole life tariffs. This isn’t the case and, whilst the UK government will have to revisit the issue at some point, at the moment a Judge is obliged to pass a whole life tariff in the right situation (see here for details of that case – Vinter v UK).