The news on the wires last week that the evil couple convicted for the brutal killing and dismembering of 16-year-old Becky Watts, have lodged appeals, will come as no surprise to readers of these blogs – it was fully predicted at the start of this month. That prophecy didn’t take a lot of criminal knowledge or court experience though, did it? No, all the major crime criminals get away with appealing or trying to appeal – all at our expense of course and to the financial benefit of their money grabbing scum defending lawyers. That is how our English indulgent and flawed justice system works, doesn’t it?
The convicted have nothing to lose have they? No, there is no provision for the Court of Appeal to increase a sentence as a ‘penalty’, or anything else of that nature, for an appeal however spurious or lacking in real merit. Why not? While the Court of Appeal ‘could’ order an unsuccessful applicant to pay some costs they never do, not least because the criminals never have any money – or claim not to anyway (all squirreled away you see).
Nathan Matthews and his girlfriend Shauna Hoare were convicted at Bristol Crown Court last month. Matthews was sentenced to life with a minimum tariff of 33 years for the horrific Murder of his stepsister Becky, while Hoare was jailed for 17 years for the teenager’s manslaughter – with additional but ‘concurrent’ sentences of 10 years (Conspiracy to Kidnap), 2 years (Perverting the Course of Justice), 3 years (Preventing a Lawful Burial), and 2 years (Possession of a prohibited weapon). [Matthews could have been given ‘whole life’ for murder, and was given no additional sentence whatsoever for the additional equal convictions to Hoare in the case]. Both got off lightly according to many legal views, didn’t they?
The pair are of course now are trying to appeal both against their convictions and sentences. They had 28 days to get permission from the Trial Judge for leave to appeal and it is not clear if Hoare met that deadline, but certainly Matthews didn’t. As previously opinionated here, they were going to get short shrift from the Judge anyway, who had been visibly deeply upset by the horrific evidence at the trial. Whatever, both applications will now go through the Criminal Appeal Office to be decided upon by a Single High Court Judge based on the defence’s written applications, without any other input. If it is decided that there is no prospect of an appeal succeeding it will be refused, these two applicants can then still require it to be dealt with by a full panel of three Judges – what do you think they will do with nothing to lose, eh?
If in fact a full appeal is ‘actually’ heard on either applicant, it will be before three Judges, normally one full-time Lord Justice of Appeal and two High Court Judges, but it will nevertheless not be a rehearing nor a re-judgement of the case, and only new evidence now available can be tabled.
To launch a successful appeal against conviction, the defence need to have identified there was an error of law involved in the conviction that would have made a difference – like the Trial Judge getting it wrong on admittance of some evidence or telling it wide of the mark to the Jury. If the Appeal Court decides they have concerns about the convictions, they can be fully quashed, or the case goes back for a retrial in the Crown Court – which understandably would certainly cause further devastation to Becky’s family and friends.
Regarding sentence, Matthews himself will find it hard to argue with the 3 year uplift imposed on the basic legal 30 sentence, and to boot he didn’t get any time whatsoever for his other major offences committed, so without doubt in the circumstances he will not get far on that, will he? In the matter of Hoare (who claimed she knew nothing about anything), the manslaughter sentence certainly was fairly lengthy, but the Judge heard it all of course. Moreover, her ‘illegally’ lax sentence for possessing two stun guns carried a ‘minimum’ of 3 years more than she actually got, so she got lucky on that. Furthermore, her sentences were all concurrent – hardly unfair treatment there, eh?
It would be surprising therefore if the Court of Appeal would interfere with either of these remorseless person’s sentences, wouldn’t it?
The legal process to appeal against the sentence is the same as for conviction, except that if accepted for a hearing, it can be dealt-with by two Judges only – and they will simply consider if the Trial Judge got it totally wrong (despite having heard all the evidence) and imposed a manifestly excessive term that was unjustified by the facts, or out of the accepted range. If the appeal is successful then the Court of Appeal itself will impose a new sentence.
[Just now it is not generally known what is the basis of Nathan Matthews’ or Shauna Hoare’s grounds for Appeal, so it is too difficult to make any specific comment on whether or not they are suitable, but the legal thoughts are that they will have an uphill battle anyway, eh? Either way we pay, don’t we?].