Below is the text of the letter we have sent today to the Attorney General, asking if he will review the sentences against those who attacked Lee Irving, under the Unduly Lenient Sentence scheme.
We hope pressure from the family, the network and others will bring about a review of the sentence. We campaigned some years ago to make sure that disability related murders could be sentenced as a matter of parity with other murders that could be seen as hate crimes (for instance, homophobic or race related murders). This would mean that the life sentence can be increased up to 30 years for such crimes. We achieved this end with an amendment to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act, thanks to all party pressure. However it is not being used in disabilty related murders – the sentences have remained relatively low for such horrific crimes. So should there be a new law? Or can the provisions in place bring about change?
My feeling is now that the current provisions do not go far enough and are not fit for purpose if, as in the case of Lee Irving, the police and CPS regarded the crimes against him as related to his disability but the judge could decide that was not the case and sentence (relatively) low. If the provision was for a clear issue – disability related murder – the jury would decide, rather than the judge. This may be a useful reform. It’s certainly worth discussing at least.
LETTER TO THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BELOW, ON BEHALF OF THE DISABILITY HATE CRIME NETWORK AND LEE IRVING’S FAMILY
Dear Mr Wright,
The Disability Hate Crime Network and Mr Irving’s family would be grateful if you could review the sentence given to James Wheatley, of Studdon Walk, Newcastle. Wheatley was given a life sentence for murder at Newcastle Crown Court on 2 December.
We are asking for the murder to be sentenced as a disability hate crime, in which case the time served could be increased up till 30 years under LASPO.
We are also asking for the other defendants (except Barry Imray) in the case to be sentenced for their crimes under sec 146 of the Criminal Justice Act, which would also increase their sentences. However, we are asking that the sentence against Mr Imray be reviewed to see if it is appropriate, given his disability. Mr Irving’s family have also asked for this sentence to be reviewed with care.
The police and CPS agreed that the multiple crimes committed against Mr Irving were disability related. The judge disagreed and has the discretion, in law, to do so. However we believe that the police and CPS presented good evidence of disability hate targeting. We would be grateful if you could review the case with a view to appeal.
The family of Mr Irving would be particularly grateful if you would do so. His aunt writes to the Network: “The sentence was..not deemed a hate crime which we cannot understand. In my opinion the [murder] sentence was pretty low for such a dreadful crime.”
We look forward to hearing from you,
on behalf of Mr Irving’s family
and the Disability Hate Crime Network