R v Aziz (Ayman)  EWCA Crim 1568, 2019 WL 04450482
AA, aged 16 at the time of offending, was convicted by a jury of the rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl. The judge imposed a specified minimum term of 19 years, and a sentence of ten years’ detention to be served concurrently. The judge also accepted the lifting of a reporting restriction imposed under the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 s45(3). These decisions were both upheld by the Court of Appeal.
The statutory starting point for sentencing AA was 12 years. The Court of Appeal cited R v Markham and Edwards in their judgment and stated that although the sentence was a substantial one, it did not ‘float free’ of the starting point required when sentencing young offenders. They found that the severity of the sentence flowed from the weight which the judge attached to the nature of the offending and his legitimate assessment of the true level of culpability.
The Court of Appeal upheld the decision of the judge to lift the reporting restriction imposed by section 45(3) of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 which was challenged by AA via judicial review. The order had been stayed pending the Court of Appeal’s decision. The court found that the judge had balanced the competing claims of privacy, child welfare and open justice. As the issue of AA’s welfare was balanced with the public interest, there was no legal error in this approach. The argument that the judge had wrongly proceeded on the assumption that anonymity would necessarily fall away when the appellant reached 18 in 11 months was also rejected, and that he was entitled to take the view that continued anonymity was not warranted in order to allow what could only be a relatively short period while the appellant underwent secure hospital assessment. The only option to preserve AA’s anonymity would have been an injunction against the world, similar to that sought by John Venables, but the facts of this case were found to be different and that the threat to personal safety was not a significant factor.
This is a clear example of a child not being allowed the opportunity to benefit from the legal protection of anonymity which exists to safeguard young defendants.