A lawyer representing the police officer-turned-sex killer Wayne Couzens has told the Court of Appeal his client should spend “decades in jail” for the rape and murder of Sarah Everard in March 2021 but should not have been given a whole-life prison sentence.
Under English law the mandatory sentence for murder is life but the minimum sentence is set by the trial judge and only 76 people in British prisons are serving whole-life sentences, meaning they will never be released.
In the Court of Appeal on May 4 senior judges heard challenges or appeals to the prison sentences of five convicted murderers, including Couzens, who watched the proceedings on a video link from Frankland prison in County Durham.
Jim Sturman QC, for Couzens, said: “The combination of his remorse and his guilty pleas … should balance out that aggravating factor which clearly exists, of him being a police officer, albeit off-duty in half uniform.”
Sturman said the trial judge’s sentence was based on his view that Couzens had shown no remorse, which he said was “an untenable finding.”
Couzens’ barrister pointed out he pleaded guilty before any real evidence was presented.
Tom Little QC, representing the Attorney General’s office and the Crown Prosecution Service, responded: “His criminality was, as found by the judge, a fundamental attack in reality on our democratic way of life. A police officer is in a uniquely powerful position.”
While lawyers for Couzens, and Ian Stewart—given a whole-life sentence in February this year for murdering his wife Diane in 2010, six years before he killed his girlfriend Helen Bailey—were arguing for shorter sentences, the Attorney General’s office was demanding whole-life terms in three other cases.
One of those was Emma Tustin, who was given a minimum term of 29 years for the murder of six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes in June 2020.
Little said Tustin’s sentence was unduly lenient and she “merited at the very least consideration of a whole-life order.”
He said Arthur had been “subjected to the most unimaginable suffering” and added: “This was an extremely serious example of child murder against the background of that cruelty.”
Mary Prior QC, for Tustin, said the trial judge had taken a “fair and proper approach in this very difficult case.”
The Attorney General’s office is also seeking a whole-life sentence for Jordan Monaghan who was given a 40-year minimum term for murdering two of his children and his girlfriend.
Little said the crimes were of “exceptionally high” seriousness.
Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett and four other judges reserved judgement, which will be announced later in the year.