By Paul Taylor QC
Murder – minimum term – mental disorder reducing culpability – Judge’s assessment of psychiatric evidence – discount for early admission of killing
R v Turner
 EWCA Crim 1300
T was convicted of murder. The only issue at trial was diminished responsibility. He had previously pleaded guilty to manslaughter on that basis. T was sentenced to imprisonment for life with a minimum term as 16 years less 306 days.
At trial there was a dispute between the psychiatric evidence, in particular as to whether or not T was suffering from a mental illness. In sentencing, the judge stated his own conclusion that T was not suffering from either schizophrenia or from a schizoaffective disorder, but that instead “his behaviour was as a result of anti-social personality traits, coupled with his anger and stress and possibly exacerbated by cannabis and alcohol consumption ..." He also addressed the mitigation, which essentially was in the form of the mental health disorder, and assessed whether that lowered the degree of culpability. As to that, the judge said this: "In my view it did, but only to a small extent.” The judge then turned to consider credit for the guilty plea, accepting that he had entered a guilty plea to manslaughter at the earliest opportunity and "...has always accepted the facts of what took place, without seeking to mitigate"; as a result he gave a 1 year discount.
T argued that (a) insufficient weight had been given to T’s mental health issues when considering his culpability; (b) insufficient credit was given to reflect T’s earlier admissions of killing the deceased and his early acceptance of guilt of manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility. (c) the judge erred in his assessment of the aggravating factors. The CACD rejected (a) and (c); the impact of the mental health issue “was a matter for the judge and his appraisal of the evidence.”
As to (b): The CACD analysed the background to his admissions and the Definitive Guideline on Reduction on Sentence for a Guilty Plea issued by the Sentencing Council, Para F1, and Markham  EWCA Crim 739. It concluded that the proper discount should have been 2 years and not 1 year. (Minimum term reduced to 15 years).
If you would like to speak to Paul Taylor QC about this case, please email here.