Court of Appeal Upholds Sentence for Prison Smuggling in R v Jordan Murray

Citation: [2023] EWCA Crim 1511
Judgment on

Introduction

In the case of R v Jordan Murray, the Court of Appeal’s Criminal Division delivered a judgment on an application for an extension of time within which to apply for leave to appeal against a sentence. The appeal was related to the smuggling of drugs and mobile phones into prison.

Key Facts

Jordan Murray, aged 30, was implicated in smuggling prohibited items—specifically, drugs and mobile phones—into a prison. This act was structured as a conspiracy conceived while he was on remand for separate, serious offenses, including firearms charges and perverting the course of justice. Murray’s plan involved a package tethered to a line made from dental floss, which unfortunately for him, failed when the package dropped and was seized by a prison officer. Murray had a substantial criminal record prior to this incident. In the initial judgment, he received a sentence of four-and-a-half years’ imprisonment for the smuggling offenses, which was to run consecutively to a 20-year extended sentence he was already serving for the prior crimes.

The case delves into various legal principles significant to the sentencing of smuggling offenses within a prison setting. These principles include:

  1. Sentencing Council Guidelines: While there are no specific Sentencing Council guidelines for offenses under the Prison Act 1952, the judge looked to the guidelines for the supply of drugs for insight into sentencing.

  2. Significant Role and Category for Harm: The offender’s role was adjudged “significant,” and for harm typically associated with such offenses, Category 3 was applied.

  3. Aggravating and Mitigating Factors: In sentencing, the judge considered the aggravating factor of Murray’s serious previous convictions against the mitigating factor of delays caused by the pandemic.

  4. Totality: The legal doctrine of totality, which requires a judge to ensure that the aggregate sentence for multiple offenses is just and proportionate, was a key focus in this case.

  5. Consecutive Sentences: The court imposed that the sentence for smuggling offenses must run consecutive to the sentence for the prior serious offenses, which is a standard approach for crimes committed while already in custody or on remand.

Outcomes

The key outcome is the refusal of the application for extension of time and consequently the refusal of leave to appeal against the sentence. The Court agreed with the decision of the single judge that there was no arguable merit in the appeal. Despite the offenses occurring prior to the sentencing for the earlier crimes, the circumstances did not warrant a different approach to sentencing. The reduction of six months as a discount for totality by the judge was deemed “quite sufficient in the circumstances.”

Conclusion

The Court of Appeal in R v Jordan Murray affirmed the principles concerning the sentencing of prison smuggling offenses and the doctrine of totality. It underlined that while there was a delay between the commission of the offenses and sentencing—partially due to the COVID-19 pandemic—this did not affect the principles applied in sentencing Murray. The judges emphasized the need for the final sentence to reflect the gravity of the offenses while also being just and proportionate when considering prior sentences. This conclusion underscores the court’s support for judicial discretion in sentencing and highlights the limited grounds for successful appeals against sentence length when the original sentencing appears to have been conducted with careful legal consideration.

Related Summaries