By Farrhat Arshad
Discretionary life sentence; availability in absence of specified offence; test for imposition
R v Muzaffer Ali
 EWCA Crim 856
A appealed against a sentence of life imprisonment, imposed for one offence of conspiracy to evade the prohibition on the importation of prohibited firearms. A, the head of an organized crime group (“OCG”), had on two occasions during a period of four months imported firearms from mainland Europe. On the first occasion those firearms had been sold to another OCG, before being seized by the police. On the second occasion, the firearms were seized upon entry into the UK. A argued (i) that as the firearms were for onward sale rather than use by him or his gang, this was not an offence which had consequences of the utmost gravity and (ii) life imprisonment was not appropriate where it was not evident that he would commit firearm offences in the future and a lengthy determinate sentence could be imposed instead.
The CACD held that following R v Saunders & Ors  Cr App R (S) 258, it was clear that a discretionary life sentence could be imposed where the offending did not fall within the ambit of a mandatory life sentence, an automatic life sentence under section 224A or a discretionary life sentence under section 225 Criminal Justice Act 2003. Whilst Lord Judge in Saunders had described the circumstances when such a sentence should be imposed as “rare”, the CACD stated that, “a test of rarity or exceptionality does not help in defining the circumstances in which a life sentence is appropriate.” In the CACD’s view, the two condition test set out in Attorney General's Reference 32 of 1996 (Whittaker)  1 Cr App R (S)261, and R v Chapman  1 Cr App R (S) 377, should be applied – (i) that the offender should have been convicted of a very serious offence and (ii) that there should be good grounds for believing that the offender may remain a serious danger to the public for a period which cannot be reliably estimated at the date of sentence - rather than the threefold test in R v Hodgson (1968) 52 Cr App R 113. The judge was entitled to the view that the appellant was dangerous in the ordinary meaning of the word rather than as defined in the 2003 Act.
Historic sexual offences; offences committed when a youth; culpability; maximum terms
R v Scott Goldfinch
 EWCA Crim 878
In reducing a sentence of 6 ½ years’ imprisonment to 3 years' imprisonment for one offence of indecent assault (penile penetration of V’s mouth), committed 21 years before when G was aged 16 and V was aged four, the CACD re-iterated that the proper approach to sentencing for historical sexual offences, including of adults who committed offences when they were children, was authoritatively reviewed in R v Forbes and others  2 Cr App R (S) 44;  1 WLR 53.
Whilst it was correct to say that the offence would now be one of Rape it was also important to remember that the maximum offence for indecent assault was ten years. The CACD was of the view that factor had not been properly reflected in the sentence of 6 ½ years. Further, it was important that the sentencing judge had formed the view that G was not a predatory offender but that the offence was “teenage experimentation.”
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