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John Burton QC Court of Criminal Appeal success

John M. Burton QC persuades the Court of Appeal in a case of murder, to reduce the minimum term of a life sentence from twenty years to eighteen years.

R v Scott Jefferson, 2015 CA

The applicant was found guilty of murder and was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 20 years. The prosecution case was that the victim attended a party and assaulted a female party goer. It was alleged that the applicant and a number of others then left the party and confronted the victim in the street. The prosecution claimed that the applicant pretended to calm the situation down and led the victim away but, when the victim was not expecting it, plunged a knife deep into the back of his leg. The victim later bled to death. The trial judge in sentencing decided that he would give the applicant “the benefit of the doubt” in relation to whether he “took the knife to the scene” or picked it up outside so that the starting point for the minimum term was reduced from 25 years to 15 years. He also found that the applicant did not intend to kill, was not responsible for starting the incident and was a young man aged 22. Nevertheless he stated:

“None of those factors, however, can carry great weight when set against the wickedness of your behaviour and the terrible harm that you have done.”

The single judge in the Court of Appeal refused leave to appeal the sentence but John advised that the application should be renewed and conducted the renewal application in front of the full court. The Court of Appeal agreed with John’s submissions that insufficient weight had been given to the mitigating factors in the case and granted leave to appeal and a representation order and then reduced the minimum term from 20 to 18 years.