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Last Updated: Monday, 20 September, 2004, 21:35 GMT 22:35 UK
'We feel we've been robbed'
Lincoln Archer
BBC News Online

Amanda Champion
Amanda Champion was found dead in July 2003
Draft sentencing guidelines released on Monday include a plan that could see some murderers released after as little as seven years in prison.

BBC News Online spoke to the relatives of one murdered woman about the impact that would have on the families of victims.

In July last year Amanda Champion's badly decomposed body was found near her home in Ashford, Kent, three weeks after she had last been seen alive.

Nothing at all is worth taking five years off a murder sentence
Lewis Champion
Amanda's uncle
The 21-year-old, who had a mental age of 15, was strangled and her throat cut.

Earlier this year James Ford, 26, pleaded guilty to her murder and was sentenced to life with a recommendation that he serve at least 15 years in prison.

Reduction plan

Under proposed new rules put forward by the Sentencing Guidelines Council, a quarter of a sentence could be cut if an accused admits committing a murder after a trial date is set.

The sentence could be reduced by one-tenth if a guilty plea came after a trial had begun, while one-third of the jail term would be cut if it came "at the earliest opportunity".

The largest reduction would come for those who admitted a murder that had not even been detected. In those cases the murderer would face as little as seven years in prison.

If the draft regulations had applied to this case, Amanda's murderer could have had up to one-third knocked off his sentence.

Flowers on the spot where Amanda died
A memorial has been placed where Amanda was killed
Amanda's uncle, Lewis Champion, said the plan makes no sense: "This person who comitted this crime has ruined the lives of more than 30 people.

"We were reasonably pleased there was a minimum sentence of 15 years and we're just keeping our fingers crossed he's never let out at all again."

Part of the rationale behind the proposal would be to spare the victim's family the trauma of having to undergo a trial in which the potentially grisly details of their loved one's death would be laid bare.

Need to know

But Mr Champion said those are precisely the details that families need to know.

"We feel we've been robbed because we were denied the opportunity to hear what happened," he said.

Linda Ades, Amanda's aunt, said it was vital in the long term for families to get their day in court.

At the time [of the trial] you think 'have we got to listen to that?', but now you realise you need to hear the details
Linda Ames
Amanda's aunt
She said: "At the time [of the trial] you think 'have we got to listen to that?', but now you realise you need to hear the details.

"You feel cheated that you don't get to hear any of it."

She acknowledged there may be some benefit for young witnesses not having to testify in the event of an early plea "but it doesn't really make you feel any better, does it?"

She added: "This is absolutely no deterrent. There'll be more murders I reckon. If that law came out there'd be uproar."

Remorse

Mr Champion said he was told Amanda's killer had prepared a letter for the court expressing remorse for her death, but no such feeling was ever passed on the family.

Having different levels of sentencing allows the punishment to be proportionate with the crime
Katherine, London, UK

Such actions would likely form at least part of the "absolute candour" required from an accused for the largest reductions to be on offer under the new guidelines.

But Mr Champion said even that part of the proposal went too far.

"Not even that would justify it. Nothing at all is worth taking five years off a murder sentence."

He said a long prison sentence was the sole solace that families denied the chance to confront an accused in court could hope for.

"Even 10 years down the line, the first thing we think of in the morning will still be Amanda, the last thing we think of at night will still be Amanda.

"We get a full life sentence, so why shouldn't they?"




SEE ALSO:
New sentencing rules: Your reaction
20 Sep 04  |  Have Your Say


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