R v Beyonce Parkes  EWCA Crim 578, on appeal from Wolverhampton Crown Court (unreported)
The Court of Appeal reiterated the importance of ensuring that a defendant’s age is given proper weight and consideration during the sentencing process. The COA considered the decisions in R v Clarke (2018) EWCA Crim 185 and R v Peters (2005) EWCA Crim 605
BP, an 18-year-old female, pleaded guilty at the Magistrates Court to an offence of assault occasioning actual bodily harm (ABH). Her case was committed to the Crown Court where she was sentenced to 12 months in a young offender institution. BP was granted leave to appeal her sentence by the Court of Appeal.
BP had significant personal mitigation. She had been in local authority care as a child aged 13 and had significant mental ill-health. At the time of the offence, she was suffering from borderline personality disorder but had not been taking her medication. This had led to a suspected worsening of her mental health and the consequent offending. She had a history of self-harm and had herself been subjected to domestic abuse from her partner. The victim in the case was a young female with whom BP suspected her partner was being unfaithful.
BP attacked the victim from behind, pulling her hair, punching and kneeing her in the face. The victim attended hospital where she was treated for facial bruising and a scalp wound. BP made admissions to the offence during the police interview and entered a guilty plea at the earliest opportunity. She had previous convictions for a similar assault dating back to when she was 15 years old.
The Court of Appeal agreed with the Recorder’s categorisation of the assault as a category 1 ABH; in that both greater harm and higher culpability were present on the facts of the case, primarily as it was a sustained attack. However, the Court of Appeal found that the Recorder had failed to give proper consideration to the fact that BP was only 18 years old when the offence took place. The Court of Appeal referred specifically to R-v-Clarke (2018) EWCA Crim 185 in which it was held that “reaching the age of 18….does not present a cliff edge for the purpose of sentencing”. BP’s sentence was reduced from 12 months to 8 months imprisonment accordingly.
From a defence practitioner’s perspective, this case serves as a reminder that age and consequent lack of maturity must be actively brought to the attention of the sentencing court, particularly in cases concerning young adult offenders. It further underpins the importance of alerting Sentencing Court to the relevant authorities, as in this case the Court of Appeal commented in their judgement that the authorities had not been drawn to the Recorder’s attention during BP’s mitigation.