Chambers joint head Richard Canning successfully appeals life sentence in CACD | 39 Park Square


Chambers joint head Richard Canning successfully appeals life sentence in CACD

The defendant was in a relationship with the complainant. At his Plea and Trial Preparation Hearing, he pleaded guilty to one count of rape, two counts of assault occasioning actual bodily harm and one count of unlawful wounding against her.

The defendant had a previous conviction for manslaughter from an incident occurring in 2009. Manslaughter is one of the specified offences under the Schedule 15 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003.

Section 224A of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 provides that if a defendant has a previous conviction for a specified offence, and is subsequently sentenced for new specified offending to 10 years or more in custody, then the judge should impose a life sentence, unless it is unjust to do so.

Therefore, the manslaughter qualified him for a life sentence under s.224A if he was sentenced for 10 years or more for the further offences.

The original sentencing Judge took the rape as the lead offence. He accepted that the rape was a Category 2A offence, giving it a sentencing range of 9-13 years. But he made clear that he wished to go outside and above the guidelines, and chose a starting point of 15 years for the rape. Applying discount for guilty plea,the sentence was therefore going to be 10 years or more, and the life sentence was imposed by virtue of s.224A.

Mr Canning made submissions to the Court of Appeal judges that the sentencing judge erred in going above and outside the guidelines.The starting point chosen for the rape (15 years) was far too high in all the circumstances. This was a Category 2A rape with a starting point of 10 years and a range of 9-13. A 15 year starting point before credit for guilty plea was outside the Category range and manifestly excessive.

The Court of Appeal agreed. The 3 panel bench was persuaded that a sentence of 15 years for the rape was manifestly excessive, and in their view the sentence should have been one at the top of the category 2A range (at 13 years), but not above that range.

Giving the defendant discount for his guilty plea, the sentence was substituted for one of 9 years’ imprisonment. The life sentence was therefore quashed as section 224A was not triggered. The Court of Appeal imposed an extended licence period of 6 years in place of the life sentence.

Mr. Canning took his pupil out to lunch to celebrate.