police killer’s sentence changed, judges in trouble again
Paul McKeever, chairman of the Police Federation, said a Court of Appeal judgment slashing the minimum jail term of Pc Ian Broadhurst’s murderer was “unforgivable”.
In an unprecedented letter to the most senior judge in England and Wales, Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, Mr McKeever said: “Granting an evil, calculated killer any kind of dispensation is criminal and leaves the judiciary with blood on its hands.
Um no, they didn’t kill Broadhurst.
“The decision to surrender to the appeal of this cold-blooded murderer is nothing but unforgivable.
“I… urge you to do whatever is needed to reverse this travesty of justice.”
Mr McKeever attacked the three Court of Appeal judges who ditched the original “whole life” tariff imposed on David Bieber, which would have meant him dying behind bars.
As a result of the appeal, Bieber might be released after he turns 75. Then again, the judges imposed a minimum term of 37 years, so he might not. In other words, we don’t know yet what difference it really makes, but we must apparently make a fuss regardless.
Also, if Bieber gets out of prison, he will be on ‘licence’ – breaking the conditions of the licence will see him back in prison.
Furthermore, I think the Attorney General can appeal on the grounds that a sentence is unduly lenient.
The killer’s lawyers had used the Human Rights Act to argue the sentence was a “cruel and unusual punishment”, and judges substituted a minimum term of 37 years for the former US Marine, now aged 42.
(The Daily Mail, the Evening Standard, and the Mirror used very similar wording.)
The above implies that the appellant was successful in advancing an argument under the Human Rights Act. There are two problems with this:
- he didn’t attempt to use the Human Rights Act but the European Convention on Human Rights;
- The court rejected this argument!
A Daily Telegraph article published on the day of the judgement is more accurate. What a difference a week makes.
Mr McKeever said: “To say that I and the 140,000 police officers I represent throughout England and Wales are appalled and disgusted with the decision that David Bieber will now not serve a whole life sentence is a gross understatement and my heart goes out to Pc Ian Broadhurst’s family.
“This is shockingly disrespectful to his memory and illustrates the utter travesty of our criminal justice system, where the rights of a cop killer outweigh the rights of a fallen officer’s family, friends and colleagues.
No, the rights of Bieber were not weighed against those of Broadhurst, in fact Bieber’s rights were not evaluated against anything – as I said the argument was rejected. Read the judgement (once again the Daily Telegraph fails to link to it).
“David Bieber is a monster with no consideration for life.
“The fact that his appeal was initially lodged on the grounds that it contravened his human rights is ludicrous.
“He showed no mercy or concern for human rights when he ignored Pc Broadhurst’s appeal, pleading for his life, before being executed at point blank range.”
Bieber was found guilty at Newcastle Crown Court in 2004 of the murder on Boxing Day 2003.
Pc Broadhurst, 34, who was unarmed, was shot in Leeds during a routine check on a stolen vehicle.
Mr McKeever went on: “Every day police officers put their lives on the line for society.
“These are the same officers that High Court judges take for granted to protect them and their families.
“Yet, these judges find it acceptable to stop to consider the rights of this heartless individual,
Yes, because we’re better than heartless individuals who don’t stop to consider our rights, and besides the law doesn’t say that criminals can’t use arguments on rights grounds.
It’s worth noting again that the judges considered and then rejected the human rights appeal.
with no regard for the consequences and the message this sends out to victims’ families, friends, colleagues, the police service and the public at large.
“This decision is an insult to all police officers and is nothing more than a green light for those evil thugs who have a complete disregard for life itself and think nothing of killing a police officer.”
I can’t see evil thugs being less deterred from killing a police officer in the knowledge that they might not get a life-means-life instead of a minimum of 37 years. On the other hand, I think they might be encouraged by incorrect newspaper articles only to be disappointed at trial.
But McKeever is probably better placed to judge.
I think the real issue here is mandatory sentencing. It is all very well having guidelines but I get the impression that mandatory sentencing confuses things. In this particular case for example:
54. This court has often deprecated the mechanistic use of Schedule 21 [of the Criminal Justice Act 2003, Determination of minimum term in relation to mandatory life sentence]. …
And what the Court of Appeal seems to be saying (paras 52-58 ) is that 37 years is actually how the mandatory sentencing works out, if you start with the 30 year minimum for aggravating features, according to the law. So what McKeever and the newspapers are essentially saying is that the judges should ignore the law. They might not mean to but they are.
As an aside, say you were advised that you had the option to plead guilty to manslaughter by provocation, or risk trial on a murder charge – would you opt for the former, with a starting point of 3 years, or the latter, where if found guilty you would receive a minimum of 15 years and a life licence?
In May, Pc Broadhurst’s mother Cindy Eaton called on ministers to stop the Human Rights Act being used by criminals.
“There is an imbalance in this country of ours and it is about time it was redressed,” she said.
Same old rubbish, as Tim Worstall points out. I must again note that the judges rejected the appeal on human rights grounds.