Two more whole life tariffs – Smith and Newell

Two more whole life tariffs – Smith and Newell

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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).

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Dan is a barrister at 2 Dr. Johnson’s Buildings practising in crime.

3 COMMENTS

  1. It’s not that the ECtHR has “outlawed” whole life tariffs, but rather that it has said the imposition – on a blanket basis – of a term that allows of no possibility of review and no possible (albeit however remote) release breaches Article 3 of the Convention, especially when the only conceivable exception lies in the hands of a politician (what of the separation of powers?). In fact, just as with prisoner voting rights, much of the problem is with the (deliberate?) misrepresentation of the principle of “blanket sentences” by the media (and sadly, by commentators such as yourself) and the abject failure of Ministers to uphold the Ministerial Code and of the civil service to remind Ministers of their oath of office. The Court has suggested numerous ways by which the UK could resolve this issue (other countries have much harsher regimes, but – crucially – allow for exceptions, and for judicial review, and thus escape censure by the Court), but neither the present government nor the last had the nous or integrity to grasp the nettle and resolve the issue once and for all, preferring to fitter away millions on interminable rehearings and to risk even more in possible compensation.

    • I agree with your analysis of the position – I’m not sure why you say that we have misrepresented the principles? We covered the Vinter judgment here and hopefully covered it accurately…

      And as to why the government hasn’t done anything about it – I think it’s more to do with a lack of integrity, rather than a lack of nous.

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