West Law Report

Terrorist sentences must be proportionate to facts

Posted in Times Law Report by mrkooenglish on July 22, 2008

From The TimesJuly 15, 2008

Terrorist sentences must be proportionate to facts
Court of Appeal, Criminal Division

Published July 15, 2008

Regina v Rahman and Regina v Mohammed

Before Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, Lord Chief Justice, Mr Justice Goldring and Mr Justice Plender

Judgment July 8, 2008

Sentences for terrorist offences, while requiring an element of deterrence, must not be disproportionate to the facts of the particular offence as that would be likely to inflame rather than deter extremism.

The Court of Appeal, Criminal Division, so stated when: (i) allowing an appeal by Abdul Rahman and reducing his six-year prison sentence imposed by Judge Goldstone, QC, at the Central Criminal Court on November 21, 2007, following his plea of guilty to dissemination of a terrorist publication, to five and a half years; and (ii) allowing an appeal by Bilal Mohammed and reducing his three-year prison sentence imposed by Judge Stewart, QC, at Leeds Crown Court on March 19, 2008, following his plea of guilty to possessing a terrorist publication with a view to selling or distributing it, to two years.

Mr Colin Aylott, assigned by the Registrar of Criminal Appeals, for Rahman; Miss Bobbie Cheema for the Crown. Mr James Ward, assigned by the Registrar, for Mohammed; Mr Jonathan Sharp for the Crown.

THE LORD CHIEF JUSTICE, giving the judgment of the court, said that in each case the appellant had been sentenced on a count charging him with disseminating a terrorist publication contrary to section 2 of the Terrorism Act 2006.

At Mohammed’s sentencing hearing, the prosecution had submitted that since the intention of the legislation was to criminalise dissemination of a particular type of publication, the seriousness of the offence was largely measurable by the quality and quantity of the publications concerned and other considerations were of minor importance.

The prosecution contended that section 2(7) and (8) rendered irrelevant considerations that might otherwise be important in considering the seriousness of the impact of any publication being disseminated.

Their Lordships did not accept that construction. Section 2(7) and (8) were dealing with the ingredients of the offence and not with seriousness. It was not to be inferred that matters other than the quality and quantity of the material published were to be treated as of minor importance. They must be given the importance that they deserved.

The prosecution went on to suggest that while recklessness in section 2(1) was somewhat less serious than an intention to encourage the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism, given the general scheme of the section, the appropriate reduction in sentence might be small.

Once again their Lordships could see no warrant for any departure from the ordinary approach to evaluating the seriousness of an offence.

Section 143(1) of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 provided that in considering the seriousness of the offence, the court must consider the offender’s culpability in committing the offence and any harm which the offence caused, was intended to cause or might foreseeably have caused.

Whether the defendant intended dissemination of terrorist publications to encourage the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism or was merely reckless as to such consequences was likely to be significant when assessing culpability. The volume and content of the material disseminated would be relevant to the harm caused, intended or foreseeable.

Terrorist acts were usually extremely serious and sentences for terrorist offences should reflect the need to deter others. However, care had to be taken to ensure that the sentence was not disproportionate to the facts of the particular offence. If sentences were imposed which were more severe than the circumstances of the particular case warranted that would be likely to inflame rather than deter extremism.

Offences under section 2 were capable of varying widely in seriousness and that was reflected by the fact that, while the offence carried a maximum prison sentence of seven years if tried on indictment, it could be tried summarily.

Solicitors: Crown Prosecution Service, Ludgate Hill. Crown Prosecution Service, Ludgate Hill.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: