Advocates should be more vigilant when conducting sentencing exercises in the Crown Court, especially specially when considering summary only offences.
This case was an appeal against a number of convictions and against overall sentence. The appellant had pleaded guilty to a total of 23 driving offences and theft and kindred offences, namely: driving without insurance, driving whilst disqualified, robbery, attempted robbery, aggravated vehicle-taking, burglary and four theft offences. He was sentenced to a total of 7 years and 4 months and was disqualified from driving for 3 years until an extended test was passed.
The appeal was brought on two grounds:
1 – three shoplifting offences were wrongly included in the indictment as they were summary-only offences and were wrongly sent under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 s.51;
2 – the sentences were contrary to the principle of totality.
When considering this sentence an exercise was conducted by the Criminal Appeal Office, which revealed a number of errors. The judge had not stated whether count 5 was to run concurrently or consecutively. No sentence was passed in relation to count 15, or for four offences of driving with no insurance. Three theft matters had been sent up to the crown court without enquiries first being made into the value, which later revealed them to be low-value shoplifting and therefore summary only. The judge wrongly ordered an extended re-test (wrongly as one had already been ordered), the disqualification period was not adjusted to reflect the custodial period. The aggravated vehicle taking sentence exceeded the statutory maximum.
Three low-value shoplifting offences were summary only offences, because they were under £200. Even their aggregate value did not surpass the £200 value. The sending of these matters should have been dealt with under Schedule 3 para 6 of the Act. Therefore, the joinder pleas and sentences on those counts were a nullity, and the convictions on those counts was quashed.
The two-year sentence for aggravated vehicle-taking was unlawful as due to the value of damage it should have been treated as a summary offence. A 4-month concurrent sentence was substituted.
The total sentence overall was reduced to 6 years, correcting the various sentencing errors, quashing the counts unlawfully sent and reflecting the principle of totality.
The Court of Appeal, more generally, urged greater vigilance by advocates involved in sentencing hearings before the Crown Court, especially around summary offences, and emphasized the duty on counsel to assist the judge when undertaking such complicated sentencing exercises.
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