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A case on sentencing children and young adults for manslaughter

R v Aaron Connor Joseph: R v Derice William Wright: R v Lee Warren: R v William John Cooley, CA (Crim Div) (Simon LJ, Foskett J, Warby J) 24/08/2018 (transcript not currently available).

The Court of Appeal held that the sentencing starting points taken by the judge, which had ranged from eight years and two months to nine years and six months’ imprisonment, were lenient, however, not unduly lenient.


Five young men took part in a pre-meditated attack a 17 year old.  One of the attackers stabbed the victim in the neck and was convicted of murder.  The other four of the attackers (aged 20, 17 and 16) assaulted him and were convicted of manslaughter.

The judge made a finding of fact that the offenders knew or believed that a knife was present when the attack took place. He noted that there was no gang allegiance and it had not been about drugs or organized crime.

The case of Nicholles 1 was considered.  In that case the court held that the starting point sentence for manslaughter involving the use of a knife was of 10-12 years’ imprisonment.  In the current case the court held that this should not be taken as a rule and that, as sentencing for manslaughter is notoriously difficult, each case must be determined on its own facts.


With knife crime affecting a disproportionate number of young defendants, this is an important case for youth justice practitioners.

  1.  Attorney General’s Reference (No.36 of 2015) [2015] EWCA Crim 1174  (back)