Wells-Burr murder – Petition launched to prevent prisoner transfer

Wells-Burr murder – Petition launched to prevent prisoner transfer




Say what you like about the Daily Mail, but it is consistent in their inconsistencies. They have previously decried that, despite the provisions to allow Polish prisoners in the UK to be transferred back to Poland, none have. A mere 4 days ago they were at this story again, bemoaning the fact that the UK is paying to house Polish prisoners.

So when it was announced on 17th January 2014 that the three people who were convicted of the murder of Catherine Wells-Burr (our story on her murder is here) may be transferred to Poland, this was good news, right? Wrong.

Why? Well as was shouted by the Daily Mail headline “could have their sentence for murdering a British graduate cut by SEVEN YEARS“. There is even a petition been set up asking the MoJ to block the transfer in case this happens.

Is this right?

Well, we’re not experts on Polish law, but it is important to note the first word in the headline ‘could’. ‘Could’ implies something that may happen, but how likely is it?

It should be noted that fans of accuracy may not enjoy the Daily Mail article (it is riddled with problems), but everything seems to point to the fact that they won’t get any reduction in sentence.

Poland has life imprisonment, and the general rule is that someone convicted of murder has to serve a minimum of 25 years (where the 7 year ‘discount’ in the news seems to come from).

The Court can, however, set a higher minimum tariff (up to a maximum of 50 years) and there are several prisoners serving such tariffs in Poland currently. The sentence of life imprisonment with a 32 year tariff is one that can be imposed in Poland.

In other cases the Polish Courts have been quite capable of upholding sentences imposed by English Courts. There is nothing to indicate that (despite the fact that the killers would have got a lower sentences had they been dealt with by a Polish Court) they will not get a tariff of 32 years.


We don’t know how the Polish courts will deal with this, but there is nothing to suggest that they will have their sentence ‘cut’ on a return to Poland (their sentence wouldn’t actually be cut anyway, it will still be a life sentence). This appears to be irresponsible reporting. Even if it is not, there are a few points of concern here.

Leaving aside the fact that it is hard to say that life with a minimum sentence of 25 years is disproportionately lenient, I am uncomfortable with this potentially being debated in Parliament (Bills of Attainder have been effectively abolished for good reason). The rules on prisoner transfer are sensible and humane and it is to be hoped that this won’t cause too much of an uproar, especially as it appears to be based on a lot of factually inaccurate information.

But in the meantime, just enjoy the sight of the Daily Mail campaigning to keep foreign criminals inside the UK.

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


  1. “fans of accuracy may not enjoy the Daily Mail article”

    So it will be like everything else in the Daily Hate Mail except the sudokus, then?