Monday, 11 October 2010

A problematic sentence: R v Bolton, Griffin and Marshall - Manchester Crown Court

Some sentences handed down by judges make people wonder just where the law is heading.  Three men in Manchester have just received "Intensive Alternative to Custody" - (which is available in Greater Manchester) - sentences for an appalling crime.  Please read Manchester Evening News 11th October 2010.

It is extremely hard to see why they are not now serving a substantial prison sentence.  Assault occasioning actual bodily harm - to which they pleaded guilty - carries a maximum sentence of 5 years.  It also makes one wonder what help and support is being given to their victim - see here.

The case also highlights the need for "Sentencing Remarks" to be published in full.  The public ought to be entitled to see the reasoning behind sentences handed down in serious cases.  The new Scottish Judiciary website does so.

Addendum 16th October:  The Guardian refers to the case at Manchester in an article by Ian Birrell - "A whirlwind of hatred against the disabled."  Mr Birrell is the father a child with severe learning difficulties.  With reference to the Manchester case he wrote: 'In Manchester this weekend there are three sadistic young men swaggering around, no doubt still laughing, not least at how they escaped jail. And in another part of Britain their scarred victim is trying to rebuild his life, having being forced to move home as punishment for being tortured. Is this really the kind of country we want to live in?


  1. I could say a lot about this case, for personal reasons and because this kind of abuse of the vulnerable is becoming better known (I would avoid saying it is becoming commoner).

    The victim and his abusers - sorry, attackers - will almost certainly have backgrounds all too familiar to these cases and if the victim had been from a "better" one (not necessarily "middle-class") no doubt a more fitting sentence would have been given.

    The sentence has provoked a lot of comment but as with similar lenient sexual assault cases the real question isn't asked: why are cases this serious being presided over by a local Circuit Judge and not a High
    Court Judge?

  2. @ Westengland - I am not entirely sure whether your middle paragraph is correct though you are perfectly entitled to make that observation. The extent to which the perceived "class" of the victim affects sentencing is one for criminologists but it is an interesting angle which I will try to look at.

    I agree that this case had a sexual element to it in the sense of part of the assault being to the victim's genitalia which is, of course, aimed at demeaning the victim in a very intensely personal manner.

    Allocation of cases in the Crown Court is dealt with in a protocol - see here.

    The Judge in this case is a Circuit Judge of 16 years seniority and, to be frank, senior circuit judges often deal with cases which are actually much more serious than this one - albeit, this is serious.

  3. This Manchester scheme seems similar to one run in Essex called "the Bridge" and funded by MOJ. If so I would certainly agree that this sentence was totally inappropriate to this case. But then again my experience is that Crown Court Judges are getting more lenient these days.

  4. @ Anonymous - yes, this type of "either way" offence cannot be referred:


    More's the pity.

    I think that you are generally right about sentencing being more lenient. That has been a trend no for many years.