Court of Appeal reject drug mules appeals

Despite the best efforts by Ed Fitzgerald QC and Alured Darlington The Court of Appeal refused appeals brought by persons adversely affected by recent Sentencing reforms. Alured’s letter to various professional bodies appears here.

“I am very disappointed. This even applied to those who pleaded guilty.whose appeals were in time, and if they had  been  sentenced weeks, or on one view days,  later would have been sentenced under the new guidelines.

Pleading guilty has cost those two defendants, both foreign nationals with young children, years off their lives. I am not sure what the next step should be but I hope that someone will feel able to campaign against a quite shocking injustice certainly for these two.

In R v Wilson reported in the Times on March 12 it was said that it was for the benefit of ‘everyone’ that there should be guilty pleas. Everyone clearly does not include these unsophisticated young women who showed their remorse at an early stage by pleading guilty.

The court got some things terribly wrong despite the best efforts of our counsel Edward Fitzgerald QC.

First they suggested that the Sentencing Council intended that the guidelines should operate from 27 February 2012 and not retrospectively totally ignoring the fact the Council had no power to make the guideline retrospective even if it wanted to.

Only the Government could do that.The Court, all members of the Sentencing Council,with Lord Justice Hughes acting head  of the  Sentencing Council, presiding were acting judicially and not in their capacity as members of the Sentencing Council.

Secondly they said by us suggesting that the sentences under the old regime were too long  meant that it implied that they were too long since Aramah in 1985.That is quite wrong. Aramah was a deterrent policy that had been shown not to work. They were only too long once it was realised that  that it was a failed policy  in which case at THAT point the sentences should have reverted to what was proportionate.

Third they totally ignored what the PRACTICAL result of their decision was and that is that there would undoubtedly be a two tier sentencing regime and in some cases there would be persons sentenced under the new  regime being released years  before those those sentenced under the old regime even though in some cases  the newly sentenced offending, based on weight, would have been greater.

Fourthly they ignored the fact that the the new regime makes it clear that mitigation MUST be considered under the new guideline which is a complete  volte face from the law under the old regime where mitigation was considered to be of very little value. So the PRACTICAL result of this lamentable decision is that in addition to not being  to share in the benefits of the new reduced sentences those  defendants who have substantial mitigation such as responsibilities to children in the third world will continue to have to worry about who is going to feed and look after those children.

So the  floodgates will not open and the Courts will be able to continue as normal after Easter but I really feel that in terms of their primary function which is to do justice that the Court of Appeal has taken a large step backward with this decision and very much hope that the Government will now step in and redress the situation.

The most likely way that can happen is for the legal profession  to rise up in protest and I therefore very much hope that you, Andrew Keogh, will publish this email on Crime Line in its entirety and that you, Anthony Edwards, will also publicise it and that the LCSSA and SAHCA to whom this email is also addressed will do the same.”

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