Unduly lenient sentence doubled

jamesrichardsonA man who virtually decapitated his girlfriend with a bread knife while he was drunk has had his jail sentence doubled.

Judges at the Court of Appeal in London overturned the “unduly lenient” six-year prison term imposed in the case of James Richardson and increased it to 12 years.

Richardson, 35, of Berridge Green, Edgware, north London, who stabbed popular barmaid Natalia Czekaj more than 20 times while they celebrated the New Year at their home, was originally sentenced at the Old Bailey in October.

He denied murdering the 34-year-old, but pleaded guilty to manslaughter by diminished responsibility on the grounds he suffers from alcohol dependency syndrome.

The Old Bailey heard that Ms Czekaj had been considering ending their turbulent relationship.

On the evening of the killing, they had both been drinking and jobless plumber Richardson took three knives from the kitchen and stabbed his girlfriend repeatedly while she tried to fend him off.

Richardson, who was four times the drink-drive limit, phoned 999 to report the attack.

His sentence was increased on Friday by Lord Justice Davis, Mr Justice Haddon-Cave and Mrs Justice Whipple.

The trial judge imposed an extended licence period of five years which remains in place.

Solicitor General Robert Buckland said after the ruling: “I referred the original sentence as I felt that it did not properly reflect the severity of the case.

“This was a sustained and violent knife attack on the deceased which involved her being stabbed in the back deeply enough to penetrate her heart and the offender sawing at her throat so severely that all the structures of her neck were severed.

“I hope this increased sentence gives some comfort to the victim’s family.”

Carer who sexually abused elderly victims has sentence increased to 15 years


A “depraved” carer who filmed herself sexually abusing elderly victims at a residential home and shared the footage with her boyfriend has had five years added to her prison sentence.

Judges at the Court of Appeal in London agreed with Solicitor General Robert Buckland that the original jail term of 10 years imposed in the case of, 26, of Woodville Road, Torquay, was “unduly lenient”.

Sethi was sentenced at Plymouth Crown Court in August after earlier pleading guilty to five offences relating to the sexual abuse of two women and one man in her care.

The victims she selected all suffered from dementia. One was terminally-ill with cancer and receiving end of life care. Sethi used her mobile telephone to record the abuse.

Lady Justice Hallett, sitting with two other judges, said of Sethi, who watched today’s proceedings via video link from prison: “She sexually abused three elderly, vulnerable, mentally-impaired residents in the most shocking and depraved fashion.

“She filmed the abuse and shared it with her boyfriend.”

After referring to the significant impact the abuse has had on the families of the victims, the judge said: “We will never know what trauma has been suffered by the victims themselves.”

She announced: “We are satisfied that the overall sentence imposed was unduly lenient and it would be appropriate for us to intervene.

“In our judgment the least overall sentence that could have been passed is one of 15 years.”


Mr Buckland said after the hearing: “I asked the Court of Appeal to look at this 10-year sentence under the unduly lenient sentence scheme because multiple sexual offences were committed against three victims.

“The attacks themselves involved a degree of planning and premeditation and Sethi had no regard to the vulnerability of her victims, who she should have being caring for.

“I hope the increase in the custodial sentence to 15 years offers a degree of reassurance to the families of the victims.

“Care home residents and their families should have complete peace of mind that they will not be abused and I offer those involved in this case my sincerest sympathy for the pain and suffering they have endured due to the actions of this despicable woman.”

After Lady Justice Hallett told Sethi of the increase in her sentence, she replied: “OK, yeah. Thank you.”

Rapist has unduly lenient sentence increased

Matthew Whitmore
Matthew Whitmore

A man from Birmingham who raped a “very intoxicated” student as she made her way home after a night out has had his jail sentence increased by leading judges.

They announced at a hearing in London that a prisonsentence of four years imposed in the case of Mathew Whitmore, 25, of Small Heath, was “unduly lenient” – and raised it to six years.

Whitmore, who was jailed in June after pleading guilty at Birmingham Crown Court to an offence of rape, watched the Court of Appeal proceedings via video link from prison.

Lady Justice Hallett, sitting with Mr Justice Jeremy Baker and Mr Justice Goss, said of his 19-year-old victim: “She was young, female, alone at night, and very intoxicated.”

The impact on her was “severe”. She was “paranoid” about going out alone, suffers panic attacks, and feels “tainted and robbed of her own choice, which was to save her virginity for her husband”.

After the hearing, Solicitor General Robert Buckland said in a statement: “This was an appalling attack where the completely innocent victim was steered to an isolated place and raped. Mathew Whitmore behaved atrociously.

“I asked the Court of Appeal to look at the sentence imposed in this case as I felt that four years’ imprisonment was just too low, given the offender’s total disregard for the victim’s well-being and the circumstances of this serious offence.”

He added: “I am pleased that the court found this sentence to be unduly lenient and imposed a higher term of six years’ imprisonment.

“Tackling rape and serious sexual assaults is a key priority for the criminal justice system and we will do all we can to support victims and assist in bringing serious offenders to the attention of the Court of Appeal.”

Sex attack sentence increased by Appeal Court

Stephen John Hayes
Stephen John Hayes

A man from Plymouth who sexually assaulted a “particularly vulnerable” woman at a nightclub has had his non-custodial sentence overturned by leading judges and ordered to prison for three years.

The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Thomas, declared that the 20-month suspended jail sentence imposed in February in the case of Stephen John Hayes, 27, of Hermitage Road, Plymouth, was “unduly lenient”.

Lord Thomas, sitting at the Court of Appeal in London with Mr Justice Saunders and Mr Justice Edis, replaced it with a term of three years’ imprisonment.

The judge said the victim, who has “very poor eyesight”, thought that a man who approached her at the club was a friend of hers, and they danced and kissed.

However, she felt unable to get away from the man and realised it was not the friend she had thought it was. Hayes admitted assaulting her during the encounter.

Lord Thomas said the woman was a “particularly vulnerable victim due to her personal circumstances”. She had described how the attack had a “devastating” impact on her.

Hayes had demonstrated remorse, which was accepted to be genuine, and had taken steps since to turn his life around. It was also accepted that there was no evidence that he had targeted the woman.

Lord Thomas said the court had “no doubt at all” that the suspended sentence imposed at Plymouth Crown Court was unduly lenient and an immediate custodial sentence was “inevitable”.

The judge said Hayes was an offender who would “plainly benefit” from a sex offender treatment programme in prison and said the court would like its remarks to be conveyed to those responsible for the prison service.

At the Crown Court, the sentence imposed on Hayes was suspended for two years, with a requirement that he attend a sex offender course as part of a supervision order.

Female domestic abuser has sentence increased to 12 years


A Lancashire woman who carried out a series of assaults on her partner – hitting him with a hammer, a curtain pole and a bottle – has had her “unduly lenient” jail sentence increased by four years.

Three judges at the Court of Appeal in London upped the eight years originally imposed on Gemma Hollings, 37, of Darwen, to 12 years.

Hollings, who was jailed after being found guilty of four offences committed against her 30-year-old partner over a period of around 24 hours at the home they shared, watched proceedings via video link from prison.

Her original term, handed down at Preston Crown Court last October, was quashed by Lord Justice Fulford, Mr Justice Walker and Mr Justice Flaux after they heard argument on behalf of Solicitor General Robert Buckland that eight years did not adequately reflect the gravity of her crimes.

It was also submitted to the appeal judges that a sentence needed to be imposed which would deter others from carrying out similar offences – some of which carried the risk of causing permanent disability or death.

Lord Justice Fulford, announcing the decision of the court to increase the sentence, said her victim suffered “extensive” injuries.

She grabbed and squeezed his testicles, causing him “intense” pain. In one attack Hollings struck her partner of three months with a hammer. In another the weapon was a hollow curtain pole. She also hit him on the top of the head with an empty ouzo bottle.

When the bottle smashed she stabbed him in the neck with jagged glass, exposing his jugular vein.

Hollings was told by the sentencing judge last year that it was a “miracle” she was not being tried for murder.

The injuries she inflicted included a displaced fracture of the left cheekbone, which required the insertion of a metal plate, and a fracture of the left eye socket.

The couple, both recovering drug addicts, had planned to marry. The assaults were carried out after Hollings’ partner failed to obtain money she had asked him to get from his relatives.

Hollings was convicted of two offences of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, one offence of causing grievous bodily harm with intent and one of wounding with intent.

Lord Justice Fulford said that in the court’s judgment, eight years was unduly lenient and to a “marked extent”.

Hollings, who was said to have suffered from depressive and anxiety disorders, had an “unfortunate” history, and drug-related problems, but even giving “full weight” to her mitigation there was “no escaping the grave nature of this sequence of assaults”.

The judge said the “least appropriate overall sentence” was 12 years.

In a statement after the hearing, the Solicitor General said: “The victim in this case was lucky to escape with his life.

“I brought this case to the Court of Appeal as unduly lenient as the attacks with the hammer and broken bottle carried the risk of causing permanent disability or death.

“Hollings committed a series of unprovoked assaults on the victim within a 24 hour period involving the repeated use of a weapon to target a vulnerable part of the body.

“Hollings’ assault with the bottle was especially premeditated just hours after the hammer attack. The use of a sharp and pointed weapon to target the throat indicated a higher level crime. The victim suffered multiple serious injuries and significant psychological harm.”

He said the attacks “amounted to a horrendous and potentially fatal case of domestic abuse”, adding: “I am pleased the court recognised this by increasing the sentence to 12 years.”