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Crime

Sentencing – dangerous dogs

The Sentencing Council has issued its Dangerous Dog Offences – Definitive Guideline which came into effect on 1 July 2016. It applies to all offenders aged 18 or over sentenced on or after 1 July 2016 (regardless of when the offence was committed). The guideline reflects recent legislative changes to dangerous dog offences, and significantly increases maximum sentences on conviction.
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Evidence – admissibility

This was an appeal against conviction in a trial related to gang activity. The appellants were convicted of offences including possessing a firearm with intent to endanger life, and attempted murder.

The victim had been shot through a closed door in a case of mistaken identity. Since the prosecution was therefore unable to identify the intended victim they sought leave to adduce as bad character evidence of As’ association with a gang and with firearms. Evidence of this nature was therefore admitted by agreement with the defence. The trial judge ruled that such evidence was admissible on the basis that the shooting incident had borne all the hallmarks of gang violence.

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Sentencing – confiscation order

Renewed leave to appeal against a confiscation order has been dismissed. The appellant had been made subject to a £19,645,021 confiscation order following conviction more than five years previously of two counts of concealing or disguising the proceeds of criminal conduct. The order had been made with consideration of A’s general criminal conduct. A key factor in both offences was that A had disguised his ownership or control of companies and other financial instruments in order to launder criminal proceeds for his own benefit.

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Sentencing – fraud

The trial judge had appropriately applied sentencing guidelines and the Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal against sentence for convictions for fraudulent business activity. The appellants (West and Whale) had been convicted of fraud, and Whale was sentenced to concurrent terms of nine years’ imprisonment. West was sentenced to a total of 13 years’ imprisonment.

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Procedure – new legislation

With the introduction of various new pieces of criminal legislation in the last few weeks, the author gives a useful summary of the critical elements of the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 now in force. The definition of ‘psychoactive substance’ and its extent (and exclusions) are clearly set out – with the important reminder that mere possession of a psychoactive substance is not an offence (unless it is in a custodial institution).

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Evidence – shaken baby syndrome

The author of this article considers important practical issues in relation to so-called shaken baby syndrome. Shaken baby syndrome is abusive/non-accidental head injury suffered by infants and toddlers. Their undeveloped muscles and their physical proportions mean shaking and vigorous impact causes the brain to bounce within the skull causing bruising, swelling and bleeding.

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Offences – firearms (1)

An appeal against conviction for firearms offences has been dismissed. The appellant had been convicted of possessing a prohibited firearm under s5(1)(aba) Firearms Act 1968. He was discovered in possession of a replica World War II sub-machine gun which had been converted to be capable of firing live rounds of ammunition: it would only require the removal of a steel bolt to achieve this.
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Offences – contempt of court

A juror’s conviction for contempt of court did not breach her human rights because the conviction had been foreseeable. The juror (A) had been convicted of contempt of court, having been found to have researched the previous criminal record of the defendant in the trial in question – contrary to the judge’s express orders. She was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment.
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Confiscation proceedings – lifting the corporate veil

The Court of Appeal has given guidance to Crown Court judges in criminal confiscation cases where lifting the corporate veil was raised.
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Evidence – stop and search

The statutory powers of police officers to stop and search an individual for an offensive weapon, even if there are no grounds for suspecting they were carrying one, are compatible with the ECHR. The Supreme Court so held when dismissing an appeal against a decision to uphold the dismissal by the divisional court of a claim for judicial review against the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, after the appellant (A) had been stopped and searched in Haringey.
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