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Criminal Sentencing

Volume 487: debated on Wednesday 4 February 2009

The Petition of Mrs Elizabeth McPhee and others,

Declares that the sentence of 6 years imprisonment for the two men convicted of the murder of Mr Ryan McPhee (17 years of age) on 4th July 2007 is far too lenient. The reality is that these people will serve about 3 years in prison.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Secretary of State for Justice to instruct a review of sentencing guidelines in light of the sentence given to the men convicted of the murder of Ryan McPhee.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Lindsay Roy, Official Report, 15 December 2008; Vol. 485, c. 934.]

[P000134]

Observations from the Secretary of State for Justice:

The Government expresses their deepest sympathy to Mrs McPhee and her family over the tragic loss of her son, Ryan McPhee.

The Government have the following observations to make.

Sentence imposed

Sentencing in individual cases is entirely a matter for the court, which will take account of all the circumstances of the particular case. In doing so, the court will be guided by relevant case law laid down by the Court of Appeal and any relevant sentencing guidelines when determining the appropriate sentence. The defendants in this case were convicted of manslaughter, which carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

The Attorney General, with the leave of the Court of Appeal, has powers under sections 35 and 36 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988, to refer to the Court sentences which appear to her to be unduly lenient. This must be done within 28 days of the sentence being imposed. Manslaughter is an indictable only offence and falls within the scheme. The Attorney General did not make a reference in this case; and the time limit has now expired.

Sentencing guidelines

The independent Sentencing Guidelines Council and the Court of Appeal are responsible for producing sentencing guidelines. There is no current guideline on involuntary manslaughter but the courts will take account of relevant case law established by the Court of Appeal. The Council has produced a guideline on manslaughter by reason of provocation and will, in due course, produce guidelines on all offences including manslaughter generally. The Government have no plans to request to the Council to produce a guideline on involuntary manslaughter as a matter of priority.