R v Clarke and R v Cooper

The Court of Appeal considers the appropriate sentencing reduction for extreme old age.

Mr Clarke, aged 101, was convicted of a large number of historical sexual offences against three of his young relatives. He was sentenced to a total of 13 years' imprisonment with a further aggregate term of two years on licence.

Mr Cooper, aged 96, pleaded guilty to a number of historical sexual offences involving children. He was sentenced to three years' imprisonment with an additional year on licence.

In each case, the Appellant was rather healthy for his age. However, they had common minor health problems associated with old age.

The submission in both appeals, argued in various ways, was a greater reduction in sentence ought to have been given due to extreme old age. The Appellants submitted that the court should have given greater consideration to their extreme old age, bearing in mind their ability to serve any requisite custodial period.

When sentencing old aged offenders, especially in historic cases, since rehabilitation and dangerousness were unlikely to be significant questions; the court should focus on finding an appropriate sentence reflecting harm and culpability.

Extreme old age was a material mitigating consideration, yet, sentencing should be done on a case by case basis, taking into account the individual circumstances of the offender, the Court rejected any general discount based on assumptions about extreme old age.

The offender's age, health, and prospect of dying in prison should be balanced against the public interest in passing an appropriate punishment for crimes committed and the gravity of the offending. Thus, allowance for extreme old age would be limited.

In respect of neither appellant were the sentences manifestly excessive, both sentences were upheld.

However, in both cases, s.236A Criminal Justice Act 2003 should have been applied to a number of the counts; special custodial sentence for certain offenders of particular concern. The Court made the necessary adjustments in respect of both appellants, allowing the appeal solely on this technical ground, but it had no effect on the overall sentence.


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