Page last updated at 16:08 GMT, Tuesday, 17 June 2008 17:08 UK

Disabled man's killers win appeal

Hughes, Miller and Bonallie
Hughes, Miller and Bonallie were described as "sadistic" at their trial

A man and two youths jailed for life for killing a disabled man have had their minimum sentences cut.

Brent Martin, 23, who had learning difficulties, was kicked to death on Sunderland's Town End Farm estate.

William Hughes, 22, Marcus Miller, 16, and Stephen Bonallie, 17, were each jailed for between 15 and 22 years.

Disability group Scope said the decision to reduce the terms by up to three years sent out the wrong message about crimes against disabled people.

The Court of Appeal said the "starting point" for Hughes should have been 15 years, not 30, and reduced each of the tariffs.

The sentences for Hughes and Bonallie were cut by three years, and Miller's by two.

The men, all trained boxers from Sunderland, repeatedly punched, kicked, stamped on and butted their victim during the attack in August 2007.

He was found lying in a pool of blood and later died in hospital.

At their trial in January, Newcastle Crown Court heard it was over a 5 bet to see who could knock him out first.

Brent Martin
Mr Martin was punched, kicked, stamped on and butted

Judge John Milford described the attack as "sadistic conduct on an extremely vulnerable victim".

He ruled that Hughes, from Washington Road, should serve a minimum of 22 years, Bonallie, from Birtley Avenue, 18 years, and Miller, from Baxter Road, at least 15 before they could apply for parole.

The three took their case to the Appeal Court in London.

Judges then imposed a new minimum term of 19 years for Hughes, 15 for Bonallie and 13 for Miller.

Mr Justice Goldring said: "There is no doubt at all that the behaviour of these appellants was quite appalling."

He described it as a "very bad case of gratuitous gang violence directed at a vulnerable victim".

Commenting on his decision, Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Scope, said: "These criminals kicked and beat a man to death and it would seem their main motivation for doing so was that he was disabled.

"However, this crime was never investigated or prosecuted as a disability hate crime.

"The criminal justice system needs to change and change fast to ensure that all hate crimes, be they against disabled people or other minority groups, are treated as such and given the appropriate sentencing."

The ruling was "an unpleasant reminder of the low value often attached to disabled people's lives in our society", he added.


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Northern Echo Family heartbroken after killers' sentences are cut - 7 hrs ago
Peterlee Mail Disabled man's murderers win sentence appeal - 13 hrs ago
Sunderland Echo Brent's killers have jail terms cut - 18 hrs ago

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