The Magistrate's Blog (2005-2012)

This blog has migrated to www.magistratesblog.blogspot.co.uk This blog is anonymous, and Bystander's views are his and his alone. Where his views differ from the letter of the law, he will enforce the letter of the law because that is what he has sworn to do. If you think that you can identify a particular case from one of the posts you are wrong. Enough facts are changed to preserve the truth of the tale but to disguise its exact source.

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Location: Near London, United Kingdom

The blog is written by a retired JP, with over 30 years' experience on the Bench.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


I am grateful to one of our respected professional contributors for sending me the Coffill judgment. I have edited it, but if anyone wants the full version just email me.

Crown copyright©

1. On 1st July 2005 the victim, Daniel Coffill, who was an off duty police officer, went to a nightclub in Bromley and met three friends. They decided to go to another club and in order to do so went across the road to the car of one of the friends, a Miss Claire Dicker. As they got into the car the appellant, Turner, approached them and asked them for a light. Mr Coffill, who was in the front passenger seat, said he did not have a light. Turner then asked Claire Dicker, the driver, and she said she did not have a light. Turner called her "a liar" and Mr Coffill "a wanker". The appellant, Samuels, was standing a short distance away. Words were exchanged and as the car drove away Mr Samuels spat at them, hitting the car. Mr Coffill said he was not going to tolderate it. He got out of the vehicle, which had only moved a short way down the road in order to remonstrate. Miss Dicker tried to stop him.
2. The women there did not see the actual assault. One of them saw Mr Coffill go up to the appellants and saw that they closed in on him. The next thing the women saw was Mr Coffill on the ground and the two appellants running off. There was blood all around his head. Miss Pagonis, one of the friends, then telephoned for an ambulance and a tape of that call was played to the jury.
3. Mr Coffill was taken to hospital with severe head injuries and moved to Intensive Care. He had sustained significant injury to his skull and brain and at the time of the trial was in a vegetative state, requiring 24-hour care with little hope of recovery.
4. CCTV caught the two appellants as they ran from the scene. The appellants caught a bus nearby, and CCTV from the bus itself showed the appellants to be animated and happy.
5. The bus driver described the appellants as being out of breath and smelling of cannabis. They approached a youth in the bus and the bus driver watched them in the mirror. He heard Mr Turner say that he had asked a man for a light and they had beaten him up. He saw Mr Turner punch his fist into his hand and heard him say: "I hit him and then he went down." He also heard Mr Samuels say that he had hurt his foot when he kicked the man and words to the effect that his foot was "fucked". As the bus turned into Widmore Road where this incident took place, the driver saw both appellants duck down and heard Mr Turner say that the man was still down.
6. A passenger also recalled the appellants boarding the bus and he described them as loud and jumping about. One of them had remarked about the way the man had fallen and how funny it was.
7. In interview Mr Turner said he met Mr Samuels at 11.15. They had begged a cigarette and asked for a light. He said that Mr Coffill appeared to be drunk and got out of the car saying: "I'm not having that." He ran towards Mr Samuels and Mr Turner had thrown a punch feeling intimidated. The man fell down and struck his head and they went off and boarded a bus. He denied Mr Samuels had assaulted Mr Coffill either.
8. Mr Samuels was interviewed and he said that Mr Turner had approached the man and the three women asking for a light. The man said he had a light but refused to give it. Mr Samuels had told Mr Turner to spit at the man, but had not done so. Mr Samuels then spat at the car as it drove off. The man had got out and gone to run towards him. As he approached it was Mr Turner who punched the man once, causing him to fall to the ground. They run off. He denied kicking the man or saying that he had done so.
9. He was cross-examined and accepted that Mr Coffill's blood alcohol level would have meant that his reflexes would not have been effective and he would have fallen backwards and hit his head on the ground forcibly. But he repeated that at least two further blows to the head were required to cause the head injuries in addition to those caused by the initial punch and the falling to the ground. Both of these blows would have been whilst Mr Coffill was on the ground. They were consistent with hard or forceful kicks at least one, more likely two.
10. Dealing with the antecedents of these two young men, Mr Turner was born on 24th April 1989 and he was 17. He has a few findings of guilt against him but none for violence. Mr Samuels was born on 19th August 1988. He is 18. He had previous findings of guilt, including one of possession of an offensive weapon for which he received a community punishment and rehabilitation order. Neither appellant had been in custody previously.

11. Pre-sentence reports were in front of the court. Mr Turner was assessed as presenting a low risk of physical harm to the public but a medium risk of re-offending. Mr Samuels was assessed as presenting a medium to high risk of re-offending and a high risk to members of the public.
12. Dealing with sentence the judge noted that nothing could change what had happened as a result of the appellant's actions, not even remorse. From what the judge had seen in the trial, he doubted that much remorse had been shown by these two young men.
13. So far as distinguishing between two defendants, he noted that Turner had been responsible for both the initial contact with the other group and the inception of violence and thus he distinguished his role on that basis. The only mitigation, in the judge's view, was their youth. He made the assessment that there was a significant risk to the public of death or serious injury from the commission of further specified offences such as to justify an extended sentence.
14. The grounds of appeal against conviction in the application of Turner are threefold but two have now been abandoned. Originally there were three grounds, i) the judge should not have had the 999 tape played and ii) that he should have acceded to a submission of "no case" on count 2. Those two have now been abandoned and the one ground in front of us now is the contention that the summing-up was inaccurate with regard to the evidence of Dr Rouse.
15. In relation to the sentence of Turner it is said that there was an insufficient basis for concluding that the appellant was a dangerous offender for the purposes of imposing an extended sentence, and secondly, that there was unfair disparity between two sentences that of Mr Turner and that of his co-accused, and thirdly, that the custodial element of the sentence was too long. In the case of Samuels, the same arguments are advanced in relation to the extended sentence, and secondly, in relation to the length of the custodial element.
16. The test for an extended sentence or imprisonment for public protection is well-known and has been rehearsed in a number of cases subsequent to the case of Lang [2006] 2 Cr App R(S) 3. The Court has to look at all factors in the case, including the seriousness of the instant offences, the offender's history of offending, including the kind of offence and circumstances of the offence, any patterns that they reveal and other social and relevant factors. Information will come more readily from the antecedents and the pre-sentence and any other reports.
17. Turner, in this case, was assessed in the report as a low risk of physical harm to the public and a medium risk of re-offending. The reports from the youth offenders institute at which he is currently detained show he has been a good detainee and is following a number of courses. There is nothing therefore apart from the offence itself to satisfy the criteria in Lang. Taking all those matters into account, we take the view that the extended sentence was inappropriate in the circumstances.
18. We turn to the custodial period, namely 9 years. We remind ourselves this was a young man of 16 at the time, now 17, with no history of violence and also that this was his first taste of custody. That having been said, this was a vicious and unprovoked attack, although short-lived.
19. We are mindful of the devastating impact that this incident has had both on the victim and his family. It cannot be gainsaid that this was a nasty, vicious attack. But set against that we have to look at the very short period of time that was involved, the spontaneous nature of the incident, and particularly the youth of this young man, the fact that he has not been in custody before. Looking at all those matters and the other matters that were advanced before us by counsel, we do take the view that a sentence of 9 years was too high. We propose therefore to quash the sentence on count 2 and substitute a sentence of 7 years' detention under section 91 less the 92 days spent in custody.
20. Dealing with count 2, it turns out, in any event, that that sentence was unlawful. The maximum sentence for section 20 offence is 5 years and a sentence under section 91 only being for offences which carry a higher sentence. We propose therefore, in relation to count 1, to make no separate penalty. We make perfectly clear that this is not to undermine in any way the seriousness of the actions in relation to count 1 which was the blow by Mr Turner, which brought Mr Coffill to the ground but it is for technical reasons because of the effect of the law and the different regime that pertains. The overall criminality of Mr Turner's actions has been reflected in the sentence of 7 years.
21. That brings us to the question of the issue of disparity. Taking into account, as we have just said, the overall criminality of Mr Turner, the findings of the judge that it was Mr Turner who was the instigator of the incident and the instigator of the violence and thereafter involved in the joint enterprise, we take the view that there is no merit in the disparity point. The sentence, therefore, is one of 7 years' detention, less 92 days in custody and to that extent this appeal against sentence is allowed.
22. We now turn to the case of Samuels: in relation to the extended sentence, the same points are raised namely that Samuels is a young man who has no history of violence, although he does have one conviction for possessing an offensive weapon. His pre-sentence report differs from that of Turner, although it points out that he does not have a history of or show a pattern of aggression. He was assessed as medium to high risk of re-offending and the risk to the public of such offences being high, but the report does not find the assessment to risk of violent offences, nor does it indicate that the risk to the public of serious harm. We have a prison report before us which is not an ideal prison report from Mr Samuels' point of view, showing he has not adopted well to his time in custody. That having been said, it does not assist in the assessment of the criteria as set out in Lang, and therefore we take the view it was inappropriate to impose the extended period. We turn to the length of sentence, that is of 8 years' imprisonment. For the reasons that we have given in the case of Turner, we do take the view that the sentence in his case was also too high. We therefore propose to quash the sentence of 8 years and substitute a sentence of 6 years' detention under section 91. The 74 days spent on remand will count towards that sentence. To that extent his appeal against sentence is allowed.