This week it was announced that life sentences for the murder disabled and transgender victims will be brought up to the same level as other ‘hate crimes’.
It means judges will use a 30 year starting point – rather than 15 – for deciding the minimum term to be served before parole.
This brings it in line with murders motivated by hostility towards race, religion and sexual orientation, as well as murder for gain, double murders, gun murders, murders of police or prison officers and murder with a sexual or sadistic motivation. By contrast, murders involving the use of knives brought to the scene attract 25 year starting points and the less serious cases remain at 15 years.
Of course this doesn’t mean that murderers of disabled and transgender victims have been getting away with half the sentences of other hate crime killers. Judges have the power to increase or decrease the minimum term based on the circumstances of the case, including the vulnerability of the victim. There also remains the fact that evidence is required to prove that the killing was aggravated by hostility based on the victim’s disability or gender. In some cases the reason for the murder remains unclear.
Some cases from the archives:
In September this year Leon Fyle, 23, was jailed for a minimum of 21 years for the the murder of transsexual Destiny Lauren. Fyle strangled her and took her mobile phone and jewellery after visiting her flat in Kentish Town in 2009.
The same month two men and a woman were given minimum terms of between 21, 20 and 18 years for the murder of Gemma Hayter in Warwickshire. She was abused for years before being tortured to death and dumped by the side of a railway line.
In 2007 James Hopkins, 42, was jailed for a minimum of 17 years for the murder of transsexual Robyn Browne. The judge found that he went there to steal her property, stabbed her nine times at her flat in Marylebone in 1997. The guidelines for minimum terms did not apply because the killing took place before 2003.
The murder of Kellie Telesford in Thornton Heath in 2007 remains unsolved. An 18 year-old man was charged with murder but was acquitted after a trial in 2008.
For a run-down on how sentencing is decided in murder cases see our blog on Murder Law.