Court of Appeal Critically Assesses Sentencing Guidelines in R v Oleksandr Hranatyr [2023] EWCA Crim 1684

Citation: [2023] EWCA Crim 1684
Judgment on

Introduction

The case of R v Oleksandr Hranatyr [2023] EWCA Crim 1684 concerns an appeal against a sentence in a drug-related offence. The appellant, Oleksandr Hranatyr, a Ukrainian national, was initially sentenced to imprisonment for offences involving possession of a controlled drug of Class A with intent and possession of criminal property. This article provides a critical overview of the legal principles and judgment delivered by the Court of Appeal Criminal Division.

Key Facts

On the evening of April 17, 2023, Hranatyr was arrested following a transaction involving a controlled substance, specifically cocaine, and the subsequent discovery of cash deemed to be criminal property. He had about seven grams of cocaine in possession and around £340 in cash. The arrest led to charges of possession with intent to distribute Class A drugs and possession of criminal property. Hranatyr had no history of similar offenses and his personal circumstances included financial obligations toward his family in Ukraine. After his initial sentencing, Hranatyr appealed on the grounds that certain legal guidelines pertaining to sentencing had not been appropriately considered.

The Court of Appeal analyzed the sentencing principles, scrutinizing the original judgment through the lens of the Sentencing Council’s Definitive Guidelines. These guidelines prescribe the categorization of the harm, the role of the offender, and suggest appropriate adjustments to the starting sentence based on the quantity of drugs involved. Alongside this, the mitigation factors, such as a lack of previous similar convictions, character references, and evidence of remorse, were also considered within the framework of these guidelines.

Moreover, the case exemplifies the application of the Imposition Guideline. This set of instructions assists judges in determining whether a custodial sentence should be immediate or suspended based on individual circumstances and the necessity for punishment. The appellate court found that the original sentencing judge did not completely engage in the requisite balancing act, thereby necessitating the court’s fresh assessment.

Outcomes

The appellate court ruled that the initial sentence did not sufficiently consider the amount of drugs involved and the personal mitigating factors in Hranatyr’s case. It was determined that the quantity of drugs was significantly lower than the indicative quantity addressed in the Sentencing Guidelines for Category 3 harm.

Furthermore, the appellate court found the initial handling of the offence of possessing criminal property flawed, as it did not acknowledge the specific guidelines associated with the offense, leading to an disproportionate initial sentence.

Upon review, the Court concluded that an immediate custodial sentence was not the only available option for appropriate punishment in Hranatyr’s case. Consequently, the Court suspended the sentence for two years with a custodial term of 16 months, effective from the original date of sentence. No separate penalty was imposed for the possession of criminal property.

Conclusion

The appeal in R v Oleksandr Hranatyr serves as a critical reminder of the importance of adhering to the Sentencing Guidelines prescribed by the Sentencing Council, particularly in drug offence cases with a lesser-known role played by the offender. This judgment underscores the Court of Appeal’s willingness to rectify misapplications of sentencing principles to ensure justice aligns with both punitive purposes and the circumstances of the defendant. It also illustrates the legal system’s functionality in adjusting outcomes based on the comprehensive assessment of mitigating factors, ultimately shaping a sentence that fits both the crime and the criminal.

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