Kidnap and false imprisonment– a review of sentencing by the Court of Appeal

By  |  21.04.2016

Paul Lazarus appeared in the Court of Appeal having been appointed by the Registrar to represent 3 appellants who wished to challenge their sentences for kidnap and false imprisonment.

The 3 men had pleaded guilty during their trial which had the effect of reducing any available credit for plea. The trial judge, in sentencing them, decided that the appropriate starting point before any credit for plea or personal mitigation was one of 18-20 years’ imprisonment.

The case was at the serious end of the scale of these types of offences. There were numerous aggravating features such as the use of weapons to kidnap the hostage, transportation of the hostage to a stronghold some distance away (taken from London to Ipswich), prolonged detention of 30 hours, numerous demand calls to family members demanding a ransom and, most significantly, the use of a hot iron which was applied to the arms of the hostage during his detention.

However, notwithstanding all of the above, it was arguable that the judge had taken too high a starting point when all of the relevant case law on the subject was properly analysed. Mr. Lazarus conducted this analysis thoroughly on behalf of our client and submitted grounds to the court of appeal which amounted to a review of the previous cases in order to establish some form of scale by which the current case could be properly assessed. This was a painstaking and difficult task which was ultimately rewarded by the Court of Appeal who decided that the starting point taken by the trial judge was manifestly excessive. The Court reduced the sentence in respect of each appellant by a year and a half.

The grounds of appeal were perfected by Mr. Lazarus including a table of the relevant cases which included details of the aggravating features in each. It was only by a careful reading across the facts of the relevant cases that Mr. Lazarus was able to argue and eventually persuade the Court of Appeal that the starting point taken by the trial judge was manifestly excessive.  The crux of the appeal was that the aggravating features in the current case, whilst extremely serious, were not at the top of the scale when the facts of other cases (which have attracted a starting point of 18-20 years) were properly analysed.

This successful appeal has now been reported. It is significant because it amounts to an up to date review of the relevant sentencing authorities for these very serious offences, providing a framework for practitioners to advise upon when dealing with similar matters.

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