Dear Dominic Grieve, Attorney General
I am writing to complain about the sentencing of Paul Keene at Bristol Crown Court on 22nd March 2013, which I believe to be unduly lenient.
I understand that Mr Keene was found not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter, with a reduced sentence reflecting admission of manslaughter and mitigating factors including loss of control and an alleged history of emotional abuse, for the killing of Carmen Gabriela Miron-Buchacra.
Firstly, I would like to ask you to consider whether it was right that Mr Keene was found not guilty of murder. Evidence in the form of an eight-minute voice-mail recording was heard by the court. During the course of the recording, it has been accepted that Mr Keene killed Ms Miron-Buchacra, having been permitted entry into her flat after threatening to kick the door in. Mr Keene can be heard threatening to kill Ms Miron-Buchacra, amidst sounds of choking, banging and screaming as he repeatedly punched her in the face and strangled her, first with a dressing gown cord – and when that failed – an electrical cable. I find it difficult to understand how this could be interpreted as anything other than a knowing intent to kill.
Accepting manslaughter as the offence, which for the reasons stated above, I do not; I question whether emotional abuse as a mitigating factor is appropriate. Ms Miron-Buchacra was unable to present evidence to counter this because she was dead. Similarly, she was unable to present evidence that she had experienced emotional or any other form of abuse prior to her killing. The court had, however, heard from Ms Miron-Buchacra’s aunt, who told the jury that her niece had confided to her that Mr Keene had been physically violent.
I wonder also whether aggravating factors were fully considered. These include cruelty, threat to kill, use of a weapon (for surely exchanging a dressing gown cord for an electric cable makes that cable a weapon), the degree of harm caused and Mr Keene’s post-offence behaviour which included sending texts from Ms Miron-Buchachra’s phone, pretending to be her.
For the reasons above, I urge you to refer this case to the Court of Appeal.
Karen Ingala Smith
Received a disappointing response on 22nd April:
Dear Ms Ingala-Smith
Thank you for your email asking the Attorney General to review the sentence imposed on Paul Keene.
The Law Officers (the Attorney General and Solicitor General) can apply to the Court of Appeal for certain sentences to be increased on the grounds that they are “unduly lenient”. The Solicitor General has considered carefully whether the sentence was unduly lenient in this very sad case and has decided not to refer it to the Court of Appeal as he does not consider the Court would increase it.
It is important to note that the jury acquitted Paul Keene of murder and convicted him of manslaughter, by reason of loss of control. The judge could not disregard the jury’s verdict and he could only sentence Mr Keene for the offence of manslaughter by reason of loss of control, not for murder. The Law Officers are only able to consider the sentence, as was the judge, based on the verdict of manslaughter which the jury returned.
The sentence of 7 years and 4 months is in accordance with the relevant sentencing guidelines and, in the Solicitor General’s view, was within the range of sentences it was open to the judge to impose for the offence of manslaughter.