The London killers who might have received longer sentences under Tory plans for tougher murder laws

-Credit: (Image: MPS)
-Credit: (Image: MPS)

The Conservatives have promised tougher sentences for killers with an overhaul of homicide laws, bringing the minimum sentence for domestic murders from 15 to 25 years. The proposed changes will also introduce US-style two-tiered murder classifications, with first degree murder for those who intend to kill and second degree murder for cases where the offender intended to cause serious injury.

Sentencing for second degree murder would be left to the judge's discretion, reports The Times. It is understood the Prime Minister wanted to change the law after speaking to the families of university students Barnaby Webber and Grace O’Malley-Kumar, and school caretaker Ian Coates, who were all stabbed to death by Valdo Calocane in Nottingham last year.

Prosecutors accepted pleas to manslaughter by diminished responsibility after several medical experts concluded Calocane had paranoid schizophrenia. Rather than send him to prison, the judge took medical advice and issued a hospital order with a restriction that requires Justice Secretary approval for him to be discharged.

READ MORE: Psychotic Wembley builder slaughtered woman before stabbing her flatmate 5 times

(left-right) James Coates, Emma Webber and Dr Sanjoy Kumar
James Coates, Emma Webber, and Dr Sanjoy Kumar, father of Grace O'Malley-Kumar -Credit:PA

While the NHS says a high-security hospital is equivalent to a Category B prison, and hospital orders are intended to better protect the public from criminals with mental illness, the acceptance of lesser pleas has drawn ire among the families of victims. Speaking to The Times, Dr Sanjoy Kumar, the father of Grace O’Malley-Kumar, said the new laws 'would be a seismic, important change'.

London killers with hospital orders

Donovan Miller strangled his gran then raped her corpse -Credit:MPS
Donovan Miller strangled his gran then raped her corpse -Credit:MPS

In London there have been a number of murder cases where a plea for manslaughter by diminished responsibility was taken, resulting in a hospital order for the defendant. In November 2020, long-term schizophrenic Shanil Patel beat his mum to death with a cricket bat. He had frequent hallucinations and psychotic episodes, and had shown low-level aggression to his family before.

In March 2021, Donovan Miller went on a cocaine binge, strangled his grandma to death, then twice raped her corpse. His sister told police he had no history of violence or mental health problems, but doctors deemed him unfit for trial. The 'abnormality of the mind' meant prosecutors accepted pleas for manslaughter by diminished responsibility.

Mitchell Denahy 'snapped' and bludgeoned his own mum to death -Credit:MPS
Mitchell Denahy 'snapped' and bludgeoned his own mum to death -Credit:MPS

Another shocking case of matricide was Mitchell Denahy, who bludgeoned his mum to death with a metal stopcock key. This time the Crown Prosecution Service did seek a murder conviction, but two juries were unable to reach a verdict before a lesser plea was taken. At his sentencing hearing, his sister Natasha criticised the prosecution pursuing the murder charge and a prison sentence.

Before the fatal attack, Denehy had threatened to kill his mum's partner and to push her down the stairs. It was during an argument when she told him to 'learn some manners' that he 'snapped' and killed her. At the time, he had not been diagnosed with a mental illness and this only came to light after his arrest.

Keven Antonio Lourenco De Morais stabbed one flatmate to death and nearly killed the other -Credit:MPS
Keven Antonio Lourenco De Morais stabbed one flatmate to death and nearly killed the other -Credit:MPS

Most recently, in June last year, Keven Antonio Lourenco De Morais stabbed his flatmate to death and nearly killed her roomie. Like Calocane, De Morais was given a hospital order with a Section 41 restriction after the prosecution accepted his plea for manslaughter by diminished responsibility.

The surviving victim, and the family of dead Tejeswini Kontham, also expressed concerns about the lesser plea during the sentencing hearing. It led the judge to reassure them that De Morais was not 'hiding' behind his mental health diagnosis.

Not all pleas of manslaughter by diminished responsibility are taken by the prosecution though. After Joshua Jacques killed his girlfriend and three of her family members while on probation in 2022, the CPS pressed ahead with a murder charge. Jacques did have mental health issues, but the jury decided they had been brought on by his own cannabis and drug use. He was jailed for life.

What does Labour say about the proposed law?

Joshua Jerome Derriviere Jacques, 28, has been identified as the man charged with the murder of a family of four in South London
Joshua Jacques was found naked in the bathroom after stabbing his girlfriend's family to death -Credit:Facebook

Labour’s shadow justice secretary, Shabana Mahmood, said the proposals were 'a last-ditch attempt to look tough is cynical and transparent' and accused the PM of sitting on his hands while the criminal justice system has 'crumbled'.

"Rishi Sunak wants to sound tough on domestic abusers, but he needs to urgently answer how he let the prison crisis get so bad that he has been forced to release a high-risk domestic abuser that was deemed to be a threat to children," said Ms Mahmood."

"Labour has long been committed to look at inconsistencies in sentencing. We will do this as part of our work to get a grip on the prisons crisis, get the courts moving and get victims justice. We will restore the criminal justice system back to the standard of performance that victims and the public expect.”

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