The Court refused to extend the common law principle that an offender’s sentence can be reduced, to reflect assistance given to the authorities, to include assistance provided after sentence.

The appellant had been convicted of murder and a number of other serious offences. He was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder, with a significant minimum term, as well as determinate sentences for other offences.

When sections 73 to 75 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (‘the 2005 Act') came into force, it established a statutory scheme under which a defendant who pleaded guilty could enter into a written agreement with a specified prosecutor that he had assisted law enforcement authorities. The agreement could be taken into account and the sentence could be reduced.

In R v P and Derek Blackburn [2007] EWCA Crim 2290, it was held that the statutory scheme did not remove the similar pre-existing common law power confirmed in the judgment of Lord Bingham of Cornhill, CJ in R v A and B [1999] 1 Cr App R(S) 52.
However, the statutory scheme did not apply to the appellant because he was convicted of an offence that carried a sentence that was fixed by law, and had not pleaded guilty, and because the appellant provided assistance after being sentenced. For these reasons the Court was required to consider the common law position.

The appellant argued that in all of the current circumstances the common law principle should be extended to cover the appellant's situation. The remarks of Lord Judge, CJ in the case of R v P and Derek Blackburn were cited where it was held that the rule existed because pragmatically it was needed to find an effective means to prosecute and convict major criminals. The appellant maintained that the principle of reducing sentences was not founded on the need for the defendant to show remorse; it operated in order to encourage a person to help and support the authorities. On that basis, the common law principle should apply at any time assistance was offered, regardless of whether it was before or after sentence.


The court, whilst accepting some force in the argument, felt that they would need good reasons to alter the established principles and they did not feel that there were such reasons. In addition the court decided that it was not its function, as a court of review, to reward someone for good behaviour during their sentence. In ordinary cases an appellant might look to the Parole Board, although here that was not possible because the Board had no power to alter the minimum term, but the appellant could look to the Home Secretary to exercise his power under s.30 of the Criminal Justice Act 1997. The court was also concerned not make decisions that might encourage defendants to manufacture assistance after conviction to try and reduce their sentence.



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