At the Crown court at Birmingham
Mr Justice Saini
Sentencing remarks of the Honourable Mr Justice Saini
1. Teeko Le on Tuesday 22 June 2021 you were convicted of a number of offences by the jury at Birmingham Crown Court. The most serious of these offences were the murder of Naasir Francis and the attempted murder of Mr Francis’s friend, Lawrence Morgan.
2. It now falls to me to sentence you for these offences, as well as a related and serious firearms offence on which the jury found you guilty. I have received very helpful submissions from Defence and Prosecution Counsel and my attention has been drawn to the relevant provisions of the Sentencing Act 2020 (the 2020 Act) and material guidelines concerning the offences and including the guideline concerning sentencing children and young persons. That guideline is particularly relevant given you were just 17 when you murdered Mr Francis.
3. Where I state factual findings, I am sure of those facts based on the evidence I heard at trial.
4. I have read the moving VPS submitted by Naasir Francis’ mother and brother which has been prepared as the family’s collective statement. He was a young man taken from a caring and loving family in the prime of his life. They have lost a man who had become the guardian angel of this loving family.
5. I turn to the facts surrounding the offences committed on the day, 22 August 2020, that Mr Francis was killed.
6. On one side, Mr Le, Mr Donovan Harris and Tariq Francis and on the other side, Mr Francis and Mr Morgan, came together by accident near Bings café that day, at the junction of Wheeler Street and Lozells Road at around 12.30pm. There may have been some form of gang related dispute between your side and the Francis/Morgan side, but I can make no safe findings on that matter based on the evidence I have heard and ignore that potential context in my sentencing.
7. However, the fact that there was a spontaneous outbreak of armed violence between to the 2 groups is clear on the footage. There can be no explanation of this unless there was some pre-existing dispute.
8. The murder of Mr Francis and the attempted murder of Mr Morgan was captured on clear CCTV footage. The graphic and distressing footage shows Mr Francis being shot at point blank range by you Teeko Le using an automatic weapon, while Mr Francis was sitting defenceless in a Lexus car and seeking to leave the scene. This was an execution.
9. Mr Francis suffered two bullet wounds but the ballistics and CCTV evidence shows that Mr Le fired many rounds wildly in the direction of Mr Francis and Mr Morgan, as well as into the car. It is only by luck that no innocent members of the public in this busy area of Birmingham at lunchtime that day were not also shot.
10. In addition to shooting Mr Francis you, Teeko Le, also attempted to murder Mr Lawrence Morgan by firing multiple rounds at him both before he and Mr Francis left to escape the scene, and also when Mr Morgan returned to try and save his friend who was trapped in the Lexus. It is only by chance that Mr Morgan and passing members of the public escaped without injury.
11. Mr Le, I have considered the PSRs from Surrey YOS, and the helpful reports from a clinical neuropsychologist and from a psychiatrist.
12. You have a number of relevant convictions but nothing approaching the seriousness of the present offences. You have convictions for possession of a knife (bladed article) in a public place and wounding/inflicting grievous bodily harm and possession of an article with a blade or point on school premises on 25 April 2016.
13. In addition, you were found to have two large knives at home in or around 26 December 2018 as well as items which I am sure were related to drug dealing. I also regret to note that during the course of the trial, on two occasions, namely 14 May and 25 May 2021, custody officers found that you had brought to court, hidden in your clothing, manufactured weapons- which were sharpened toothbrushes. In addition, you have been found in possession of other weapons, as detailed in the PSR as recently as late September 2021.
14. As stated in the PSR from the Surrey Youth Offending Service:
a. Your risk of re-offending is assessed as high;
b. Your risk of causing serious harm to others is assessed as very high;
c. You are assessed as very likely to commit further offences, either during your custodial sentence or once released into the community and you are regarded as posing a significant risk to members of the public through the commission of serious specified offences.
15. You were born on 24 July 2002 and were therefore 17 years of age at the date of Mr Francis’ murder. As at the date of this sentencing hearing, you are 18 years of age.
16. Therefore the only sentence which can be imposed upon you for the offence of murder of Mr Francis is one of Detention at Her Majesty’s Pleasure pursuant to section 90 of the Powers of the Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000 and this is the sentence which I impose upon you in respect of that offence, count 5. That means life imprisonment.
17. But where a court imposes the mandatory life sentence, s.321 of the 2020 Act requires the court to order that the early release provisions in s.28(5) to (8) of the C(S)A 1997 are to apply to the offender after he has served such part of the sentence as the court specifies (impose a “minimum term”) or order that the early release provisions in s.28(5) to (8) of the C(S)(A) 1997 do not apply.
18. It is accordingly necessary for me to determine in accordance with Schedule 21 to the 2020 Act, the minimum term which you will have to serve in custody prior to the Parole Board considering whether it is safe to recommend your release.
19. In relation to the determination of the minimum term of detention for the offence of murder, due to your age, the starting point is one of 12 years.
20. However, I must then consider what aggravating and mitigating factors exist in order to determine the appropriate minimum term. I will take into account the other offences of which you have been convicted as aggravating matters in determining the minimum term but will pass concurrent sentences in respect of those matters, as Counsel are all agreed.
21. In my judgment, there are the following aggravating factors:
(i) As it is not accounted for in paragraph 6 of Schedule 21, the use of a firearm. If you had been 18 at the time of the offence, as opposed to 17, the starting point would have been 30 years, (up from a starting point of 15 years). I consider this to be a material consideration.
(ii) Your convictions for attempted murder of Mr Morgan and possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life. These are serious offences in their own right although committed in the same course of criminal conduct.
(iii) The large number of shots fired by you and the timing and location of the offence, namely the middle of the day in Birmingham and the consequent high risk posed by your actions to members of the public. The vicious nature of the attack on an unarmed man cornered by you and Mr Donovan-Harris, which I have already explained.
(iv) This was a group activity.
(v) The disposal of evidence: gun and phones.
(vi) Your previous convictions.
22. The PSR makes clear that you show no remorse. You continue to deny the offences and have given no indication of a desire to abandon violence. The YOS report makes very concerning reading.
23. As to mitigating factors, there are the following matters were raised in your Leading Counsel’s written and oral submissions:
(i) First reference was made to your age as it relates to your maturity. I have considered the evidence from the expert witnesses in the PSRs concerning your maturity and development. I consider that your age as it relates to maturity is of limited relevance in this case. I do not consider the ADHD medical evidence to be material to your particular offending. This is a case where credit for your age is accommodated by the starting point.
(ii) Reference was made to your limited offending history. I agree that you benefit from the fact that prior to this offence your previous convictions, although involving knives, were of a relatively minor nature and committed some years ago.
(iii) I also accept there was no premeditation.
24. It is clear that there must be substantial upward movement on the starting point. There is very limited mitigation in your case and your Leading Counsel Mr Stone QC has been characteristically measured and realistic in this regard.
25. Before I can determine the minimum term, I must address the other offences which arose out of the incident at Bings that day and which, as I have said, I will take into account as aggravating factors in determining the minimum term.
26. As to the attempted murder of Mr Lawrence Morgan, count 6, I find on the facts that this was a very high culpability (A) and harm level (3) case within the relevant guideline. I impose a concurrent sentence of 10 years in respect of count 6, bearing in mind your age in particular.
27. As to the possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life, count 8, I consider that this was a high culpability (A) offence with Category (1) harm. I impose an 8 year concurrent sentence. Again, I have taken particular account of your age.
28. In taking into account Counts 6 and 8 as part of the determination of the minimum term, I have applied the principle of totality in arriving at a proportionate sentence which reflects your overall criminal conduct on that day.
29. I turn then to the minimum term.
30. Standing back, I am of the view that the appropriate minimum term is one of 20 years.
31. Accordingly, the sentence which the court imposes on you for the offence of murder is one of Detention at Her Majesty’s Pleasure pursuant to section 90 of the Powers of the Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000, and in accordance with section 269 and Schedule 21 to the 2020 Act, the minimum term which you will have to serve in custody prior to the Parole Board considering whether it is safe to recommend your release, is one of 20 years.
32. It is important to emphasise, so that you and the public can understand the position, that this 20 year minimum term is just that – a minimum period which cannot be reduced in any way. After it is served, there is no guarantee that you will be released at that time, or at any particular time thereafter. It is then only, if the Parole Board decides you are fit to be released, that you will be released. It is possible you may never be released.
33. Moreover, if and when you are released you will remain subject to licence for the rest of your life, and may therefore be recalled to continue your life sentence if you reoffend or otherwise breach the conditions of your licence. It is in these ways that a life sentence protects the public for the future.
34. For completeness, I also determine that your offending in Counts 6 and 8 and the further information before me in the PSRs, including your pattern of violent behaviour, would have justified a finding of dangerousness justifying the imposition of a sentence for life under section 258 of the Sentencing Code. It is clear on the evidence, particularly the Surrey YOS report, that there is a significant risk to members of the public of serious harm being caused by you committing further specified offences. I emphasis however, that I have not taken into account the dangerousness factor in determining the minimum term for murder.
35. The statutory surcharge will be added to the record. Time spent on remand will be automatically deducted from the minimum term and may be done administratively.