Friday, 21 August 2020

R v Hashem Abedi ~ Manchester Arena bomb attack ~ 55 year mimimum terms

The weather in Manchester on Monday 22 May 2017 was the finest that only an English spring can bring. Here was a perfect evening to to attend the Ariana Grande concert at the Manchester Arena.

After the concert, as people were leaving the building, Salman Abedi detonated an improvised explosive device (IED) in the foyer. He was killed. Twenty-two others were also killed - the youngest a mere 8 years old. Over 260 suffered physical injuries and many more survivors suffered psychological trauma.

The making of the IED and the attack were
the outcome of careful and extensive planing and preparation - (a joint enterprise) - by Salman Abedi (22) and his brother Hashem (aged 20 at the time). Hashem Abedi had gone to Libya where he was arrested on 23 May 2017. In August 2017 the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) authorised charges against Hashem Abedi for murder, attempted murder and conspiracy to cause an explosion. The UK requested his extradition and he was returned to the UK on 17 July 2019.

The trial of Hashem Abedi began on 3 February 2020 at the Old Bailey before Mr Justice Jeremy Baker and a jury. Abedi was convicted on all counts on 17 March 2020. During the course of the trial, Abedi dismissed his defence lawyers and refused to take further part in the hearing. A sentencing hearing was planned for 23 and 24 April 2020 but the coronavirus pandemic caused delay. Sentence was finally handed down on 20 August 2020. Abedi refused to be present in court for the sentencing. The judge said that force could not be used to get him there.

Abedi was sentenced to life imprisonment on each of 22 counts of murder with minimum terms of 55 years on each count. He was also sentenced to life imprisonment for an attempted murder with a minimum term of 40 years and life imprisonment for conspiracy to cause explosions with a minimum term of 35 years.  (All run concurrently).

The sentencing remarks of Mr Jeremy Baker are available via the Judiciary website.  The Manchester Evening News covered the sentencing hearing - see their report.

The minimum term for the murder convictions:

For murder, a sentence of life imprisonment is mandatory. The judge then sets the minimum term to be served before the individual may be considered for parole. In doing this the judge is required to apply the Criminal Justice Act 2003 section 269, 270 and Schedule 21. It is important to look at these provisions somewhat more closely.

Section 269 is concerned with determining the minimum term in relation to a mandatory life sentence. Section 269(2) requires the court to order that specified "early release" provisions of the Crime (Sentences) Act 1997 are to apply to the offender UNLESS the court orders otherwise under section 269(4) which states:

"If the offender was 21 or over when he committed the offence and the court is of the opinion that, because of the seriousness of the offence, or of the combination of the offence and one or more offences associated with it, no order should be made under subsection (2), the court must order that the early release provisions are not to apply to the offender."

Thus, because Abedi was under 21 at the time of the offences the judge was unable to disapply thearly release provisions.

The judge's sentencing remarks demonstrate the care the judge took to reach the minimum terms. The principal mitigation factor was said to be Abedi's age at the time of the offence. This was taken account of by Schedule 21 paragraph 5 setting the starting point for an offender under 21 at 30 years. Nonetheless, the judge said - " ...... I have neither read nor heard anything about the defendant which would lead me to consider that any further reduction on account of his level of maturity or understanding would be justified. On the contrary, the defendant is obviously an intelligent young man equipped with all the necessary resources to make rational decisions."

Another mitigation factor was said to be the conditions under which Abedi had been detained for part of the time he was in Libya.  It is not clear how much allowance was made for this but I have some difficulty seeing its relevance. After all, Abedi chose to go to Libya and the UK has no responsibility for the conditions in which that State holds detainees.

Aggravating features of the case were the numbers of victims and, for many of them, their young ages.

The early release provisions could not be disapplied and the lower 30 year starting point for those under 21 reflects the approach of the modern criminal law to sentencing of young adult offenders which I wrote about recently in another post on this blog.  Parliament - not the judge - fixed the starting point. It must be for Parliament to consider whether tying the hands of sentencers in this way is entirely desirable. I have no doubt whatseoever that Hashem Abedi's offending merited a whole life order.

The other charges:

Abedi was also sentenced for two other counts (referred to by the judge as Counts 23 and 24). The judge said that the dangerous offender criterion in the Criminal Justice Act 2003 section 225 was satisfied and that, in any event, sentences of life imprisonment were justified.

Time already served:

Abedi is entitled to have the 1024 days he spent in custody taken into account.  The judge said - "The defendant is entitled to a deduction of 1024 days ... to reflect the time which he has already spent in custody for these offences, including the time he spent in custody awaiting extradition in respect of these offences. Therefore, the formal order of the court is that the minimum term is 52 years and 71 days and the relevant statutory surcharge will apply."

Comments:


There is unhappiness that Abedi chose not to be present when sentenced. The judge said that force could not be used to get him there. Requiring defendants to attend their sentencing is perhaps another matter that ought to be addressed. One reason for sentencing remarks is to explain to both the offender and the public what has been considered in fixing the sentence.  It is through sentencing remarks that the judge speaks on behalf of all law-abiding citizens. Abedi, perhaps thinking he was showing bravado and giving "two-fingers" to the system, showed both cowardice and disrespect for the victims and their grieving families.

Abdei will be 75 years old by the time he can be considered for release. This killer was "an intelligent young man equipped with all the necessary resources to make rational decisions". He willingly took part in the enterprise with his brother and everything was the subject of careful and extensive planning and preparation. The sentences are entirely merited.

Inquiry:

The Manchester Arena Inquiry was established in October 2019 and is on-going.

Other links:

Court of Appeal judgment in Kahar [2016] EWCA Crim 568 - referred to by the judge.

Sentencing Council - Definitive Guidelines on Terrorists Offences

The Victims - those who were killed.
 


1 comment:

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