This is the letter I received (on behalf of the Disability Hate Crime Network) from the Attorney General, in which he explains his reasons not to refer the sentences imposed on those involved with the case of Bijan Ebrahimi to the Court of Appeal.
I’m glad it’s a comprehensive reply, but I’m sorry the sentences were not referred. I’ve thought a lot about this case over the last few weeks, and have a few observations. One is, as I’ve said before, that we need good quality perpetrator analysis of disability hate crime offenders to understand motivation better. Secondly, I would advocate FBI style information on the crimes and offenders being more readily available – locations, ethnicities, etc etc. This would enable potential victims to conduct their own risk analysis of situations more readily. Perhaps it would even lead to better intelligence led policing.
Most importantly, however, I think that this case should lead to a major police reform whereby if a police force considers that it may have failed a murder victim and refers itself to the IPCC after death it should then have the murder investigation removed from it. This would mean that the investigation could be more wide-ranging. In the Avon and Somerset case the police force stated that it could find no evidence that the crime was motivated by disability hatred. If it had found such evidence, of course, that would have damned the force yet further. So it had a direct interest in not looking for such evidence – if it was there. That meant it did not ask for Section 146 of the Criminal Justice Act to be applied either for race or disability hatred which would have led to longer sentences. So I think in future cases a neighbouring force should take over the ensuing investigation to look for all evidence that might show evidence of the police not doing their job properly before the murder and missing repeated harassment. One to ponder.
LETTER FROM THE ATTORNEY GENERAL – DATED 3 JANUARY 2014
Dear Ms Quarmby
Thank you for your email on behalf of the Disability Hate Crime Network asking the Attorney General to review the sentences imposed on Lee James and Stephen Norley. James pleaded guilty to the murder of Bijan Ebrahimi and was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 18 years. Norley pleaded guilty to assisting an offender and was sentenced to 4 years imprisonment.
The Attorney General has carefully considered the sentences imposed and has decided not to refer either sentence to the Court of Appeal as unduly lenient because he does not think the Court would increase the sentences.
As you may know, the Attorney General has the power to refer sentences imposed in the Crown Court for certain offences to the Court of Appeal if he considers they are unduly lenient. It is then for the Court of Appeal to determine whether the sentence is unduly lenient and, if so, whether to increase it. The Court of Appeal will not interfere with a sentence unless it is outside the range of sentences it was reasonable for the judge to have passed.
The Court of Appeal’s review of a sentence is based on the material which was before the sentencing judge and the Attorney General has to take that into account when he reviews a sentence. In other words he has to look at the basis on which the case was presented to the court below. In this case the prosecution made it clear that there was no evidence that the offenders were motivated by hostility towards Mr Ebrahimi’s race or disability when the offence was committed. The prosecution did not consider there was any evidence in this case that the false accusation against Mr Ebrahimi that he was a paedophile was related to his disability. There was therefore no basis on which to argue that the offences ought to have been treated as hate crime.
The sentencing judge did find that this was a vigilante crime characterised by bullying and victimisation and he increased the sentences to take account of that, and other aggravating factors. The Attorney General concluded that the judge approached the sentencing exercise properly and took all relevant factors into account.
I hope this helps to explain why the Attorney General decided that it would not be appropriate to refer these sentences to the Court of Appeal.