West Law Report

Threshold for sadistic murder

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

From The TimesJuly 15, 2008

Threshold for sadistic murder
Court of Appeal, Criminal Division

Published July 15, 2008

Regina v Bonellie Regina v Hughes and Regina v Miller

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

Judgment June 17, 2008

For a murder to involve sadistic conduct, so as to merit a 30-year starting point in determining the minimum term of the mandatory life sentence, the conduct had to involve a significant degree of awareness of pleasure in the infliction of pain, suffering or humiliation.

The Court of Appeal, Criminal Division, so held in allowing appeals by Stephen Bonellie, William Hughes and Marcus Miller against the minimum terms specified on sentences imposed by Judge Milford, QC, at Newcastle Crown Court on February 29, 2008 for murder.

Bonellie and Miller’s minimum terms for detention at her Majesty’s pleasure were cut from 18 to 15 and from 15 to 13 years respectively and Hughes’ minimum life prison term was reduced from 22 to 19 years.

Mr Bryan Cox, QC, for Bonellie; Mr Graham Hyland, QC, for Hughes; Mr Benjamin Nolan, QC, for Miller, all assigned by the Registrar of Criminal Appeals; Mr Paul Caulfield for the Crown.

MR JUSTICE GOLDRING, giving the judgment of the court, said that the deceased, aged 23, who suffered from a learning disability and other psychiatric conditions, was systematically attacked, tormented, humiliated and finally beaten by the appellants whom he misguidedly believed to be his friends.

Did that amount to sadistic conduct for the purposes of paragraph 5(2)(e) of Schedule 21 to the Criminal Justice Act 2003 so as to attract a 30-year starting point?

The current online edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (www.oed.com) defined “sadism” as “enthusiasm for inflicting pain, suffering, or humiliation on others”.

Sadly, it was often the case that those who attacked others derived pleasure from so doing. Many a person kicking someone else on the ground derived such pleasure. A person, too, might gain pleasure from baiting a vulnerable individual or showing off to his friends. That was not enough to bring the case within subparagraph (2)(e). That subparagraph contemplated a significantly greater degree of awareness of pleasure in the infliction of pain, suffering or humiliation.

Appalling though the appellants’ behaviour was, it fell short of that sort of conduct which was contemplated as sadistic by the subparagraph. The starting point for an offender aged 18 or over should have been 15 years.

Solicitors: Crown Prosecution Service, Newcastle upon Tyne.

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