Sometimes we get asked questions, or receive requests to cover a specific case, and when we do then we try (day job permitting) to answer them sometimes, as with this, a bit late.
Last week Nathan Sumner was convicted of an offence of s18 after a brutal attack on a police officer, Lisa Bates, caused her to lose a finger, have a fractured skill and a smashed ankle.
When Mr Sumner was arrested, it was only after a large number of officers had come as back up, and Mr Sumner had been tasered. He said to one onlooker “I’ve cut two people’s heads off with an axe and you are next, you crazy bitch“.
A question that was asked by several people is why, given the ferocity of the attack and the fact the Mr Sumner “chased her, shouting “I’m gonna kill you” when PC Bates attended his flat on a call out and tried to arrest him, Mr Sumner was only convicted of s18 rather than attempted murder.
The short answer is that the jury, who heard all the evidence (including the agreed fact that Mr Sumner was suffering a psychotic episode at the time) concluded that although they were sure that Mr Sumner intended to cause PC Bates really serious harm, they were not sure that he was intending to kill her.
At the end of the day, that is what juries are for – they heard all the evidence over several days (and however good the reporting is, a news report won’t be able to do this justice).
In any event, the line between a s18 and an attempted murder is a blurred one in many cases. Sometimes it is clear cut – if you try to shoot someone in the head, it is virtually certain that you are intending to all the person. With other attacks it is less certain.
In this case, although the attack was a horrific one, it would have been a fast moving one, and when your bear in mind him being in a psychotic state you can see why a jury would have decided that they were not sure he was intending to kill.
For the record, the Judge has adjourned the matter to get an update on Mr Sumner’s ‘mental state’ before passing sentence. On the facts, he would appear to be dangerous, and it is quite likely that he will get a life sentence. It may well be that the difference in sentence for an attempted murder as opposed to a s18 is not that great.
Hope that helps.