Sonn Macmillan Walker secure a suspended sentence in an historic murder case

By  |  22.10.2020

In an almost unique set of circumstances, Sonn Macmillan Walker represented a client charged with the murder, having been convicted of causing GBH to the same victim in 2004.

Our client was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for a stabbing which left the victim with irreversible brain damage and paralysis. The victim died in 2017 and a pathologist concluded that his death was ultimately a consequence of his stab wound. In 2019, our client was charged with murder after the CPS obtained the consent of the Attorney General.

Change in the law
Until 1996, to be charged with murder a victim had to die within a year and a day of the alleged actions of an individual. This law was changed by the Law Reform (Year and a Day Rule) Act 1996, since when the CPS must obtain the Attorney General’s consent to commence such a prosecution since the injury alleged to have caused the death was sustained more than three years before the death occurred and our client had been convicted of an offence committed in circumstances alleged to be connected to the death.

Background to the offence
The deceased was embroiled in a campaign against our client’s son over several months between 2002 and 2003. In September 2003, the deceased confronted our client’s son at a Cambridge petrol station. Our client was called to the scene by his son who feared for his safety. When he arrived, our client was assaulted by the deceased and suffered a severe head injury after his head was stamped on by a friend of the deceased. At some stage during the altercation, the deceased was stabbed in the heart by our client with a penknife.

After making representations to the CPS, and after much delay, the CPS agreed to accept our client’s plea to manslaughter on the basis of provocation. ‘Provocation’ has been replaced by the defence of ‘loss of control’ to the offence of murder but was available in 2004 and so was the proper defence advanced in this case.

In passing sentencing, the Judge took into account the fact that our client had served a 10 year sentence of imprisonment, was now in his 80s and was suffering with depression and documented cognitive issues. The sentence imposed was 2 years imprisonment, which was suspended for 18 months.

The case was legally and factually complex. As modern medicine continues to advance, it may be that we see prosecutors revisiting offences and the erosion of the double jeopardy principle. Sonn Macmillan Walker are always prepared to deal with novel situations and in this case, we instructed some of the country’s leading experts in pathology and geriatric psychiatry in order to assist our client.

Chris Stevens was the solicitor in this case and instructed Paul Mendelle QC and David Wood, both of 25 Bedford Row Chambers.

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