Saturday 6 April 2013

R v Philpott, Philpott and Mosley ~ Sentencing remarks of Mrs Justice Thirlwall

The manslaughter of 6 children as a result of a deliberately set fire must rank high in the catalogue of heinous crimes.  The sentencing remarks of Mrs Justice Thirlwall in the case of Philpott, Philpott and Mosley are available. The children ranged in age from 5 to 13 and they died as a direct result of a fire set by the three defendants.  Thirlwall J noted that, of the 3 defendants, Michael Philpott was the 'driving force behind this shockingly dangerous enterprise.'

Michael Philpott was sentenced to life imprisonment and must serve a minimum of 15 years before parole may be considered.  There is no guarantee that he will be released after the 15 years.  Life sentences are explained here and also see Ministry of Justice Life sentenced prisoners

Mairead Philpott (mother of the children) and Paul Mosley (family friend) were each sentenced to 17 years imprisonment and must serve half before release on licence.

Forget the political side show about the benefits Philpott received.  Thirlwall J got to the heart of his true character and the appalling deed he committed.  In the judge's words, Philpott is a 'disturbingly dangerous man' with 'no moral compass.'

The judge
referred to the only proper course being to sentence Michael Philpott to life imprisonment.  The statutory provisions relating to sentence are very convoluted.  Here, the Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000 s82A would have applied.  Early release provisions - in the Crime (Sentences Act 1997) - are normally applied.  However, there is section 82A(4) and this enables the sentencing court to order that early release provisions shall not apply.  Clearly, the court would reserve this power for the most serious of offences.  Unfortunately, the judge's sentencing remarks do not indicate whether this power was considered.  Michael Philpott's case is one where it might be thought that the the use of that power would have been merited.

Halsbury's Law Exchange - Philpott - why wasn't it murder and when will he be free?  Barrister, Felicity Gerrity

Benefits in Britain: Separating the facts from the fiction - The Guardian 6th April 2013


  1. What explains the weird punctuation in this document? Is it just a minimally edited transcript of her oral remarks?

  2. The remarks will be as delivered in open court and they are remarks aimed primarily at the defendants. Of course, the written word cannot convey just how the words were spoken.