Keith Rizzo v. Her Majesty’s Advocate [2020] HCJAC 40

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Note of appeal against sentence:- On 9 March 2020, following a trial at Glasgow High Court, the appellant was found guilty of three charges:- (a) assaulting his partner in May 2019 in Brechin (charge 7); (b) behaving in an abusive or threatening manner towards his partner in a pub in Brechin on 9 June 2019 contrary to the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010 (charge 6); and (c) the murder of his partner on 9 June 2019 by forcing entry to the flat, inflicting blunt force trauma to her head, compressing her neck and restricting her breathing and repeatedly striking her on the head and body with knives. All three charges were aggravated by the deceased being the appellant’s partner, in terms of section 1 of the Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Abuse (Scotland) Act 2016. On 6 April 2020 the trial judge sentenced the appellant to a life sentence with a punishment part of 22 years. The appellant appealed against the length of the punishment part. It was submitted on behalf of the appellant that the punishment part selected was excessive. It was accepted that there was a necessity for the trial judge to select a lengthy punishment part, however, given his relative youth (23 years of age at the time of the murder) it was necessary to have regard to the need for rehabilitation in selecting the appropriate punishment part. It was submitted that the appellant would not be eligible for parole until his mid-forties and it was necessary to provide the appellant with some hope of how he might be able to contribute to society in the future and, in the absence of that, his self-motivation to rehabilitate would be reduced. Here the court considered that the punishment part selected was not excessive and refused the appeal. The court described the murder as “exceptionally brutal” and noted that the deceased was a 23 year old young woman who had simply been on a day out at the annual Angus show prior to her death. The court stated that beyond his relative youth there were no mitigating factors. The appellant had exhibited no remorse and refused to accept responsibility for his crime and continued to maintain his innocence. The court highlighted the section 1 aggravation which reflected a breach of mutual trust. The court stated that rehabilitation ought not start only when the punishment part expires but in the form of courses, visits and in the open prison regime prior to that. The court stated that whether that long and gradual rehabilitation process commences will depend upon the appellant’s attitude and conduct during his sentence. Section 1 of the 2016 Act requires that the sentencing court must take the domestic aggravation into account and state what the sentence would have been had it not been for the domestic aggravation and then increase it to take account of the aggravation or explain why it is not doing so. Here the court noted that it was not clear whether the sentencing judge had fully complied with the requirements of section 1(5)(d) of the 2016 Act in that the sentencing judge only referred to taking the whole circumstances into account when selecting the punishment part.

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