Monday, 28 November 2011

Deterrent Sentencing

Junior Henry, the 17 year old youth, who stabbed a 20 year old man in the stomach at the Notting Hill Carnival in August was sentenced to four and a half years custody by Judge Peter Beaumont on the 24th November.

The public may at first be conned into believing that this is a half decent sentence for the crime but most of us now know, of course, that he will only serve half the sentence anyway. His estimated release date is shown on the court papers as 26/2/2014. Furthermore, because of pressures on the prison population, he will almost certainly be released after two years and be home for Christmas in 2013.

When you look further into the circumstances of Junior Henry's offending and refer to the sentencing guidelines it is difficult to see how such a lenient sentence was ever passed. In September 2007 aged just 12, Junior Henry was part of a gang known as MDP (Murder Dem Pussies.) About 15 youths from this gang went out looking for members of another gang. They came across two innocent young men and attacked them. One was stabbed to death and the other seriously injured. Henry was charged with Murder, Conspiracy to cause GBH and Violent Disorder. The jury acquitted him of Murder but he was convicted of  Conspiracy to cause GBH and Violent Disorder. Some of the gang were imprisoned but, because of his young age, Henry was sentenced, by Judge Peter Beaumont, to a Supervision Order!

Since that Supervision Order was imposed, Henry has been back in front of Judge Peter Beaumont three times for breaching it. On March 7th 2011 he appeared before the Judge and was told this was his last chance and if he breached the Order again he was going to feel his wrath. On 16th March, just nine days after this warning, Henry was arrested for an assault and charged. He was convicted on the 26th July and bailed back to the Crown Court to see Judge Beaumont and feel his wrath.

On the 29th August, Henry was at the Notting Hill Carnival when a fight broke out. A man tried to break up the fight and Henry pulled out a knife and plunged it into his abdomen/ribs. It is quite simply luck that the man did not die. A few inches in another direction and this could have been the result. The whole incident was caught on CCTV and there were good photographs of Henry running away clutching the bloody knife. He was arrested and charged with Causing Grievous Bodily Harm With Intent, an offence that carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. He pleaded guilty in the face of overwhelming evidence and was sentenced to four and a half years.

I have referred to the sentencing guidelines for that offence and the recommended sentences are between 3 and 16 years. There are three categories of offence:

Category 1 - Serious Injury and Higher Culpability, starting point 12 years, 9 to 16 years depending upon aggravating and mitigating factors.
Category 2 - Serious Injury and Lower Culpability, or Less Serious Injury and Higher Culpability, starting point 6 years, 5 to 9 years depending upon aggravating and mitigating factors.
Category 3 - Less Serious Injury and less Culpability, starting point 4 years, 3 to five years depending upon aggravating and mitigating factors.

Higher culpability will include things such as use of a weapon.

Aggravating factors can include, previous convictions, on bail for other offences, location, ongoing effect on victim, failure to comply with current court orders.

Mitigating factors can include things like single blow, age/lack of maturity.

I cannot for the life of me see why this offence was not dealt with as Category 1, resulting in a sentence starting at 12 years and ranging between 9 and 16 years taking account of the aggravating and mitigating factors. The aggravating and mitigating factors above should have resulted in a sentence of at least 12 years, with a third off for a guilty plea, should have been at least 8 years.

Judge Beaumont has obviously placed this as a Category 2 offence under the guidelines. I cannot see where on earth he can show that either the injury or the culpability is not serious. He has then determined that following consideration of the aggravating and mitigating circumstances a sentence of 6 years and nine months is appropriate. He has then reduced this by a third to 4.5 years. The judiciary often defend their poor sentencing by claiming that their hands have been tied by the sentencing guidelines. I often point out that sentencing guidelines do not prevent sentencing outside of those guidelines in exceptional circumstances, such as where defendants have dozens of previous convictions. In this case the guidelines do not appear to have been followed, to the detriment of justice.

Some people felt the sentencing following the riots in August was harsh. Most people felt that, for once, the justice system was performing it's function and providing sentencing with a deterrent effect. Readers of this blog will know I am not someone who just wants people thrown in jail, but there must be deterrent sentencing combined with effective rehabilitation in our justice system. The sentence of  Junior Henry, a knife wielding gang member  involved in the murder of one young man and directly responsible for stabbing another, is an ineffective disgrace.


  1. "..but there must be deterrent sentencing combined with effective rehabilitation...the sentence of Junior an ineffective disgrace.."

    Yes, lex. No doubt about that one.

  2. Until this scumbag moves in next door to the judge and starts shagging his daughter he will keep getting pathetic sentences.

  3. When you lay out the guidelines like that, it's hard to see why he wasn't banged up until 2020.

  4. I don't always agree with you (to say the least) but in this case I agree 100%. This kid is violent and will no doubt kill or seriously injure again.

  5. Well I'm an ex of Junior Henry's and no one can say that he will definatly harm again after the period of time he would have served. Any amount of time can change anyones mentality, even if he is out before Christmas 2013, he has still served 2 years, which is 2 long years of thinking. Everyone has a past, everyone makes mistakes large or small, and I believe from knowing Junior he can change, remember that he hasn't served that amount of time before, so nobody can say he isn't going to change.