BCL associate Umar Azmeh writes for the Criminal Law Review analysing the recent Court of Appeal judgment in McCann and Sinaga.
Below is a short excerpt from the article which can be read in full in the Criminal Law Review here.
In December 2020, a five-judge Court of Appeal (Lord Burnett CJ, Dame Victoria Sharp P, Fulford LJ (VPCACD), Choudhury and Cutts JJ) handed down its judgment in the cases of McCann and Sinaga which ruled on the long-standing question of whether a whole life order might be imposed in a non-homicide case, i.e. under a discretionary life sentence.
Following trials for serious sexual offences, McCann and Sinaga were both sentenced to life imprisonment with minimum terms of 30 years. Their cases were, in the Lord Chief Justice’s words, “the most serious cases involving a campaign of rape to have been tried in England and Wales” in the “collective experience” of the Court of Appeal. That notwithstanding, the Court of Appeal declined to pass whole life orders, instead substituting minimum terms of 40 years for the sentenced passed in the Crown Courts below.
Umar’s article analyses the judgment, noting that whilst the Court of Appeal did not seek to set any firm rule, it has effectively declined in advance to impose whole life orders in any sexual offence case. The Court did suggest that in certain narrow categories of non-homicide case, whole life orders might be appropriate: the cases envisaged are effectively unsuccessful attempts/plans to commit mass murder. The article goes on to explore the Court’s somewhat unorthodox reasoning that it deployed to increase the minimum terms upon both McCann and Sinaga to 40 years.