Court Clarifies Criteria for Reduced Sentences Based on Post-Sentencing Assistance: R v BHR & Anor

Citation: [2023] EWCA Crim 1622
Judgment on

Introduction

The judgment detailed in the case of R v BHR & Anor [2023] EWCA Crim 1622 addresses the principle of providing a reduced sentence for offenders who, after sentencing, provide significant assistance to law enforcement authorities. This case necessitated a close examination of whether the Court of Appeal, Criminal Division, has the authority to entertain an appeal against sentence based on assistance given post-sentencing when no formal agreement was made prior to sentencing.

Key Facts

The applicants, BHR and BMV, sought reductions in their respective sentences on the grounds of having provided important aid to law enforcement subsequent to their sentencing. As no formal statutory agreement was in place prior to the sentencing, the judges were unaware of this development, and thus, it wasn’t considered during sentencing. Both applicants also applied for extensions of time to appeal against their sentences. These requests were combined due to a shared underlying principle, despite the cases being unrelated.

Several legal principles are at play in this judgment. The Court clarified the general rule that reductions in sentence relating to the provision of assistance (via “the text procedure”) are available only if the offender provides or offers such assistance before their sentencing. While reviewing earlier cases, the Court noted exceptions to this rule, albeit narrowly construed, such as the situation where post-sentencing assistance significantly exceeds what the sentencing judge had factored in or when the sentencing judge wasn’t informed of the offender’s intent to offer assistance prior to the sentencing.

The court referred to the following cases to underline the principles:

  • R v A and B [1999]
  • R v K [2002] EWCA Crim 927
  • R v A [2006] EWCA Crim 1803
  • R v P and Stephen Blackburn [2007] EWCA Crim 2290
  • R v H, R v D, R v Chaudhury [2009] EWCA Crim 2485
  • R v ZTR (also referred to as R v Z) [2015] EWCA Crim 1427
  • R v Royle, R v AJC, R v BCQ [2023] EWCA Crim 1311

The Court also considered the provisions under sections 74-75 and sections 387-391 of the Sentencing Code of the Sentencing Act 2020. Section 388 was specifically highlighted, indicating that it provides a statutory route by which offenders may have their sentences reviewed based on the provision of assistance subsequent to sentencing.

Key aspects of the judgment include an affirmation of the Court’s function as a reviewing body, rather than one to conduct fresh sentencing exercises, and the need to limit manipulation of the system by offenders seeking to reduce long-standing sentences.

Outcomes

The Court concluded that the general rule must stand: the offender seeking sentence reduction based on post-sentencing assistance via the text procedure must have offered or provided such assistance prior to being sentenced. Both BHR and BMV were determined not to fit within the exceptional cases that would warrant a deviation from this rule, leading to the refusal of the applications for an extension of time and for leave to appeal against sentence.

The Court’s order for anonymity and the prohibition of any reporting that could identify the applicants was also affirmed, adhering to the principles of open justice and the necessary derogations from it due to the risks facing the informants.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the case of R v BHR & Anor reasserts the established legal principle that offenders must engage with the process of offering assistance to law enforcement prior to sentencing if they wish to have a reduced sentence considered on appeal. The Court emphasized the continuing importance of this rule even in the face of strong policy arguments for allowing post-sentencing assistance to be considered. This maintains the Court’s role as a reviewing body and upholds the integrity of the sentencing process, while guiding how assistance from offenders can be incorporated within the legal framework.

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