27.01.2021

New sentencing guidelines for drug offences published

The Sentencing Council has published revised sentencing guidelines for sentencing offenders convicted of drugs to respond to the changing nature of offending. The new guidelines, which update those published in 2012, will come into effect on 1 April 2021.

The new guidelines are intended to provide, judges and magistrates in England and Wales with updated sentencing guidelines for offences under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 to reflect modern drug offending and new guidelines for offences created by the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 to bring clarity and transparency around the sentencing process for drug offences.

The revised guidelines include new and more powerful drugs brought onto the market over recent years and in the assessment of harm, now reflect changes in purity and yield of drugs since the 2012 guidelines.

[News release here]

22.01.2021

R v Nica, Hughes and Others

Mr Justice Sweeney, Central Criminal Court

The Defendants have variously pleaded guilty, or been found guilty, of participation in a conspiracy to facilitate unlawful immigration in the overall period between 1 May 2018 and 24 October 2019 (Counts 40 & 40A). [p.1]

Hughes… pleaded guilty to, and Nica… been found guilty of, 39 offences of dangerous unlawful act manslaughter on 22 October 2019 – when 39 Vietnamese migrants, aged between 15 to 44, died excruciating deaths from asphyxia, carbon dioxide poisoning and hyperthermia whilst, in furtherance of the conspiracy, they were being transported by freighter across the channel inside an airtight trailer from which they had no means of escape. Each offence of manslaughter carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. [p.2]

Of those in the dock, two played leading roles, namely (in order of their importance) Hughes and Nica… Hughes … admits that he played a leading role… [p.3]

I have no doubt that Nica… lied about his role during the trial… I have no doubt that he was also in a leading organising and managerial role… he was the principal Romanian conspirator… [p.3]

In relation to Ronan Hughes and manslaughter, from the starting point of 12 years, a balancing of the aggravating and mitigating factors, leads to a notional sentence after trial for a single offence of 15 years’ imprisonment. The combination of all 39 offences results in an ultimate notional sentence after trial of 30 years’ imprisonment which, after full discount for plea, gives a final sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment concurrent on each of Counts 1-39. On Count 40 the notional sentence after trial would have been 13 years which, again reduced by full discount for plea, gives a final sentence on that Count of 8 years and 8 months’ imprisonment concurrent. The total sentence is therefore one of 20 years’ imprisonment. [p.7]

In relation to manslaughter and Gheorghe Nica, from the starting point of 12 years, a balancing of the aggravating and mitigating factors, leads to an increase to 14 years for a single offence. The combination of all 39 offences results in a final sentence of 27 years’ imprisonment concurrent on each of Counts 1-39. On Counts 40 and 40A the sentence is one of 11 and a half years’ imprisonment concurrent on each Count. The total sentence is therefore one of 27 years’ imprisonment. [p.8]

[Full sentencing remarks here]

11.01.2021

R v Saadallah

Mr Justice Sweeney, Central Criminal Court

[The defendant] has pleaded guilty to the murders of James Furlong (Count 1); Joseph Ritchie-Bennett (Count 2) and David Wails (Count 3), and to the attempted murders of Stephen Young (Count 4); Patrick Edwards (Count 5) and Nishit Nisudan (Count 6).

The offences were all committed in Forbury Gardens in Reading in the early evening of Saturday 20 June 2020 when, using a knife with an 8” blade that he had bought for the purpose, and within an overall period of around a minute, the Defendant stabbed each of the victims in turn. Having jettisoned the knife, he got away from the scene, but was followed and was arrested.

Having considered the evidence, including the evidence of the various psychiatrists who examined the Defendant … and the compelling reasoning in the statements of the Prosecution psychiatrist…I am sure that the Defendant was not suffering from a mental disorder or mental disability which lowered his degree of culpability for any of the offences.

Having considered all the material facts and for the reasons that I have explained, on each of Counts 1-3, I sentence you to concurrent terms of life imprisonment and, having no doubt that this is a rare and exceptional case in which just punishment requires that you must be kept in prison for the rest of your life, make a whole life order on each of those Counts … On each of Counts 4-6 I sentence you to 24 years’ imprisonment concurrent. [p.5]

[Full sentencing remarks here]