Thursday November 12
Tomorrow is the day that killers Nathan Matthews and Shauna Hoare get their comeuppance for their disgusting crimes against sixteen Becky Watts. What will the Judge decide is adequate sentences, do you think?
Murderer Matthews will be given a Life Sentence because that is mandatory in England these days for murder. However, the Judge has to set a ‘minimum term’ that has to be served before the Parole Board may consider whether it is safe to release the offender on licence – that is where some discretion comes in, and the Prosecutor has a role to play in identifying aggravating factors to the Judge.
The term could be ‘whole life’ if the murder is seen as of exceptionally high seriousness; 30 years if of particularly high seriousness, 25 years if bringing a weapon to the scene intending to commit an offence (a stun gun would though be classified as a ‘firearm’ rather than simply a weapon); apart from these, it is a minimum of a 15 years sentence.
We might expect the Prosecutor to argue for a whole life order as the murder involved abduction, sexual motivation, and Becky was particularly vulnerable due to her young age and trapped in her own bedroom. Other aggravating factors would include significant planning and premeditation, the violence intended, the mental and physical suffering inflicted on Becky before death, the dismemberment of the body followed by its concealment, and the particularly reprehensible context of kidnap in which the killing occurred. Furthermore there are no mitigating factors that apply in this case.
While murder is the most serious offence and form of homicide, manslaughter can run it a close second, so Hoare should not expect a lenient sentence (unlike so called ‘one punch killers’ who end up with only four years or under ordered jail), as in this case there were premeditated acts of violence resulting in the horrific death of tragic Becky. The manslaughter can hardly be termed in the class of ‘involuntary’ (unintentional) can it – did this depraved pair really expect Becky to come quietly and never tell anybody later about the assault on her, so how exactly did they expect it all to end? The penalty will all be down to the trial Judge though, who has sole discretion in the matter – he can impose as much as a life sentence, and as little as nothing at all.
The Jury’s conviction of Hoare for manslaughter was a bit of a relief of course to many people who had feared that she would escape justice altogether because the evidence against her was circumstantial – and Matthews had tried to get her off completely, by exonerating her. We will see tomorrow what the Judge determines is the seriousness of her offence, won’t we?
What’s more, both these individuals have been convicted of the other serious offences involved, that alone can carry substantial prison sentences, but will that actually matter? Don’t hold your breath here, as often judges decree that all other jail-time is served ‘concurrently’ (served at the same time as the main sentence), rather than ‘consecutively’ (total imprisonment to be the sum of all the sentences), – so the guilty don’t spend even an extra day behind bars, do they? It all stems from our legal system being geared up to getting prisoners out of the system to free-up jail space, doesn’t it?
The denials of guilt by Matthews and Hoare directly caused the need for this six week High Court trial and apart from the enormous expense of it all, Becky’s family were forced to hear first hand all the gruesome details in Court of Becky’s death and disposal (the Jury will also have been traumatised as well). Did the perpetrators get additional pleasure out of their crimes by putting everybody through that, and will there be any price to pay by the guilty here? Unlikely, eh?
As many suspected some damming evidence was excluded from the trial – like a previous sexual assault on Becky by Matthews when she was eight and the two monsters interest in attracting other attractive teenage girls.
If you think it is all over and has ended now – think again, perhaps? Lawyers have form in carrying on the fight over many years for their clients against conviction or sentence, don’t they? It is all money (ours) for them, you see. Even before sentence is passed here, the two Defences are probably already meeting to plan their leaves to appeal, eh? (The Judge in this trial has about a month to decide if he will voluntarily grant the right to appeal against conviction). The Defences can’t criticise the Jury (except for irregularity), but they certainly can the Judge if they find fault with him, and they can even claim the conviction is unsafe and if successful can get it squashed, or then change the verdict to a less serious conviction.
[No sentence can now bring Becky Watts back, but we all want to see our Justice System giving the full punishment available under the Law to her two killers, don’t we?]