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A case on the mandatory minimum term for children guilty of murder

R v Ammar Kahrod (2018) CA (Crim Div) (Hallett LJ, Kerr J, Sir Andrew Smith) 04 July 2018

The appellant’s sentence to a minimum term of 17 years for a murder which was not premeditated and in which he did not have an intention to kill, was not found to be manifestly excessive.  The fact that he had been on the streets carrying a knife was a significantly aggravating factor.

Details

The appellant was 17 years old at the time of the offence.  He met the victim in the street and after a short confrontation he stabbed him through the heart.  After trial he was convicted of murder.  The trial judge accepted that this was not a pre-meditated murder and that the defendant had not intended to kill the victim.  However, it was not accepted that he was carrying the knife in self defence.  The appellant was sentenced to a minimum term of 17 years based on the rationale that the starting point for an adult would have been 25 years and that due to his youth the starting point was 12 years.

The appeal was dismissed: ‘while death was not intended, the consequence of stabbing in the chest are all too obvious and his actions were all too likely to have fatal consequences…Although the attack was not premeditated, the fact remains that he was on the streets with a knife…of course, when sentencing a young offender, the court will have regard to the welfare of the offender, but this will not blind a judge to the seriousness of the offence.  The stark aggravating feature of this offence…is that he had taken a knife with him to the street, where he used it.’

Commentary

Thousands of children walk the streets in possession of knives each year.  Most of them do so because they genuinely feel unsafe.  The state is failing to tackle the underlying problems which have led to this unhappy predicament and children are being heavily punished for the inevitable consequences.