Court of Appeal Reaffirms Statutory Minimum Sentence and Totality Principle in R v Malik Douglas Appeal

Citation: [2023] EWCA Crim 1476
Judgment on


The case of R v Malik Douglas presents an examination of sentencing principles and their application in the context of an appeal against sentence length for multiple offences, including possession of a prohibited firearm and drugs with intent to supply. At issue in the appeal before the Court of Appeal Criminal Division ([2023] EWCA Crim 1476) are matters concerning the statutory minimum sentence, the application of credit for a guilty plea, and the totality principle in sentencing.

Key Facts

Malik Douglas, aged 27, faced sentencing for three counts: possession of a prohibited firearm, possession of a controlled drug (Class B, cannabis) with intent to supply, and possession of criminal property. Douglas had ten previous convictions including drugs and firearms offences. After pleading guilty, he was sentenced to an accumulative six years and nine months in prison. However, the initial sentence for the firearm offence was reduced from the statutory minimum to accommodate the guilty plea, prompting an appeal.

The judgement touches on several key legal principles:

Statutory Minimum Sentence

A core aspect of the case is the statutory minimum sentence required for possession of a prohibited firearm (Firearms Act 1968, section 5(1)(aba)), which is set at five years’ imprisonment unless exceptional circumstances justify otherwise. The Sentencing Act 2020 reaffirms this minimum term and does not allow for reduction based on a guilty plea.

Credit for Guilty Plea

Another principle concerns the credit for a guilty plea. Usually, an early guilty plea warrants a reduced sentence. Nonetheless, this principle does not override the statutory provisions for a minimum sentence, as noted above.

Totality Principle

The ‘totality principle’ is crucial when determining concurrent or consecutive sentences for multiple offences. This principle ensures that the aggregate sentence appropriately reflects the totality of the offending behaviour and is commensurate with the seriousness of the crime(s).

Interpretation of Section 11(3) - Criminal Appeal Act 1968

The judgement also elaborates on Section 11(3) of the Criminal Appeal Act 1968, stating that the appeal court should not increase the total sentence imposed at the first instance.


The Court of Appeal restructured Douglas’s sentence by:

  1. Increasing the sentence on count 1 (possessing a prohibited firearm) to five years’ imprisonment to adhere to the statutory minimum.
  2. Reducing the sentence on count 2 (possession with intent to supply) to 21 months, in order to fulfil the requirement that the overall sentence length not be increased due to the appeal, aligning with the principle cited in Section 11(3) of the Criminal Appeal Act 1968.

It was determined that the offences were distinct and required separate recognition, thus justifying consecutive sentences but mandating readjustment to align with the statutory minimum without increasing the overall sentence length.


The Court of Appeal’s judgement in R v Malik Douglas reinforces the mandatory nature of statutory minimum sentences and the constraints on applying credit for a guilty plea in such cases. It also illustrates the application of the totality principle to ensure fair and proportionate sentencing for multiple offences, as well as the limitations set by Section 11(3) of the Criminal Appeal Act 1968 in the context of an appeal. In summary, the outcome ensures that sentencing remains just and consistent with established legal parameters, while the case upholds the importance of each principle within the sentencing framework.