REX -v- TA (reporting restrictions)

CriminalCrown CourtSentencing Remarks

In The Crown Court at Sheffield

30 November 2023




Sentencing remarks of The Honourable Mrs Justice May DBE

NOTE: Reporting restrictions are in place and have not been lifted. Names and places have been anonymised in these sentencing remarks.

[TA], you have admitted causing the death of Marcia Grant by driving dangerously. You said you were guilty when you were asked over a videolink from court in October. Before that you said you were guilty to having had a knife on you. So that is two offences I have to sentence you for today.

On March 24 this year social services took you and your little sister away from your mother and your home in [A town]. Your sister was placed with a foster family in [A town] but there was nowhere there for you so you were taken to Sheffield. You were with three different families for a few days each before being taken to Marcia Grant. That stay too was for a short time but she agreed to an extra night over the Easter weekend.

That night, 5 April, you took the car key and a knife from the kitchen. You crept out to Marcia’s car, got in and tried to drive it away by reversing off the drive and into the road. You were not able to drive it properly, you had never driven before. She ran out to stop you and went to the back of the car. The reversing car knocked her down and then drove over her, at speed. Marcia’s husband Delroy was by the driver side window banging on it and shouting for you to stop; he saw his wife being run over. He finally broke the car window. You ran off and when police caught up with you, you said some horrible things. It made people wonder if you were sorry for what had happened to Marcia.

Since then you have said that you are sorry for what happened to her, and I believe that you are.
Her family are heartbroken, and angry, of course they are. Her son and daughter have lost their mum, Delroy Grant has lost his wife. She was everything to them. No sentence I give you can bring her back or lessen their sadness.
You were 12 then, you are now 13. I have thought very hard about what the right sentence for you is. I am going to tell you what I have decided, and then I am going to give you my reasons. I am also going to give some reasons for the lawyers, at the end.


I have decided that I must sentence you to two years custody. This means that you will go back to [M] today. You will not be allowed to leave [M] until half-way through the two years. The time you have already been there will count. This means you will not be allowed to leave [M] until next April. When you leave you will be “on licence” for a year. This means that you will still be doing your sentence but you can live in the community instead of being in custody. When you are on licence, there are rules you must follow. If you break any of these rules you can be asked to go back into custody.

There will be no separate penalty – meaning no separate sentence – for the knife offence.
The law is that anyone who does this crime must be disqualified from driving for at least 5 years plus the time they are in custody. That applies to you even though you are aged 13 and not allowed to drive anyway. The disqualification is for 6 years. You must also take a special driving test – called an extended driving test – before you can ever drive again.


Now I will tell you the reasons why I am giving you this sentence.

I thought about a lot of different things to help me decide what sentence to give you. These are explained in some guidance used by judges called Sentencing Children and Young People. I have thought carefully about the things in that guidance. I have read and considered reports from Dr Chakrabarti and from Keryn Cullumbine at the Youth Justice Service. She and Mr Wright have reported on how you are getting on at [M].

I have to think about the seriousness of what you did and the harm you caused. I have to think about you and your situation and the help that you need, also what will help prevent you – stop you – from committing more crimes in future. I thought carefully about all of the information I have been given about you.

I have read about your living in [B country] for some years before coming back here. There was a lot of moving around when you came back and trouble at home before your dad left. Life afterwards with your mum was not easy either. The moving around meant you did not go to school much. Your older sister was placed with a foster family some time ago, leaving you the oldest child at home. When you and your little sister were taken away from your mum in March you were split up and taken to different places. Being suddenly separated from her and your mum will have been upsetting. You were moved around 3 times in 10 days before you got to Marcia Grant’s home. You had to go to a new school too, which is not easy for anyone.

When you took Marcia Grant’s car you wanted to go and see your mother. You were worried about her. You were desperate to get to her. But you made a very bad choice: you knew that taking her car was wrong. You knew that taking her kitchen knife was wrong. Driving at your age, not having had any lessons or passed a test, was bound to be dangerous. You were risking having a bad accident, which is what happened.

It is important to understand this: the prosecution have accepted that you did not mean to harm Marcia Grant when you drove the car. The offence you committed is very serious but it is NOT murder. You did not mean to kill her or to hurt her; it was a very bad accident.

There were two different sentences I could have given you – a Youth Rehabilitation Order or custody. Custody is the last resort for a child. But taking the car, driving it and causing Marcia Grant’s death was so serious that the sentence for you must be custody. The shortest time I think is right is 2 years.

It is encouraging that you have settled well at [M]; I have read that you have made friends and are doing well, catching up at school. I see that you would like to get GCSEs and that your teachers at [M] think you can do that. You will get the help that you need whilst you are there. When you leave [M] I hope that you will continue to work hard at school so as to get those qualifications. They tell me you want to be a footballer or a retail manager, which are good goals to have for your life.

Reasons for the lawyers

I am acutely aware that in focusing on the child, as the court must in applying the guidelines, the grieving family can appear to be sidelined. They are to be commended for their dignity and strength in court today.

The impact upon Marcia Grant’s family has been devastating; no sentence can compensate the family for her loss. No sentence could in any way properly reflect her value to her family and her community. She was the shining lodestar of her family and a committed foster carer who dedicated herself to making disadvantaged children’s lives better. It is a desperate irony that she should have lost her life as the result of the actions of one of those children, a child who told his social workers that he liked her and was looking forward to another night at her home.

When considering TA’s culpability it is important to bear in mind that at the time of the offending he was 12; at that young age he was not fully developed and was nowhere near full maturity. This is known to impact on decision making and risk taking behaviour. As the Guideline on Sentencing Children and Young People (CYP guideline) points out at para 1.5 “it is important to consider the extent to which the child or young person has been acting impulsively… They may not fully appreciate the effect their actions can have on other people and may not be capable of fully understanding the distress and pain they cause”. I note in this connection the view of Keryn Cullumbine, the Youth Justice officer, at para 18 of her report that “it is clear that this offence occurred due to a unique set of circumstances..[it]..clearly demonstrated a high degree of impulsivity with a disregard for potential consequences to himself or others and that [TA] currently lacks the skills necessary to foresee consequences”. In his long and careful report Dr Chakrabarti concludes that TA’s comments made at the time of his arrest should be considered “misguided childish bravado”. TA has since expressed sorrow and regret at having caused Marcia Grant’s death even though, as Ms Cullumbine points out, no detailed work has yet been done with him in talking about the offence as that cannot be started until he has been sentenced.

Many of the matters raised in the Welfare section of the CYP guideline at paragraphs 1.11-1.21 apply to [TA], as is evident from reports of his early childhood and education history. It is unnecessary to set out all the details here of a childhood marked by numerous and repeated highly adverse childhood experiences and educational/emotional disadvantage. These factors give rise to virtually all of the mitigating features identified under paragraph 4.7 of the guideline. A significant additional mitigation is [TA]’s guilty plea. Counsel are agreed that the full 1/3 reduction is appropriate.

[TA] has a single caution for possession of a knife last year, he is not a persistent offender. His home life has been routinely unstable, his education throughout has been very disrupted; he is only now beginning to catch up, in the security and routine provided by his current placement.

Clearly, attention to [TA]’s welfare calls for consistent adult supervision together with a stable and consistent education provision, which his current placement provides. There is encouraging progress, the reports are that TA is catching up such that he will be able to take GCSEs. He is starting to set himself goals for his future.

The sentencing options are limited: at age 12 and not being a persistent offender TA does not qualify for a Detention and Training Order, nor for a Youth Rehabilitation Order with Intensive Supervision and Surveillance, or fostering. The only options are a regular Youth Rehabilitation Order, or custody under section 250 of the Sentencing Act 2020.

An assessment of seriousness requires me to reflect on the combination of culpability and harm: TA’s culpability is reduced by the factors to which I have already referred; the harm is as high as it could be, since a death has been caused. The CYP Guideline stresses that custody for children must be a sentence of last resort, nevertheless in this case, notwithstanding TA’s young age, I have concluded that a sentence of custody is required, given the seriousness of the offence.

The Sentencing Council Guideline for causing death by dangerous driving applies to adults above 18. It is very difficult sensibly to read over the category descriptors to the driving of a totally inexperienced 12-year old child.
Paragraph 6.46 of the Children and Young Persons guideline suggests that a reduction of a third to a half of the adult sentence may be appropriate for 15-17 year olds; at age 13, [TA] is much younger than that. Moreover he has considerable mitigation arising from his background, and he is entitled to a full discount for plea, as already indicated.

I treat the context of taking the car and having the knife as aggravating factors. Taking an adult sentence at a level between Categories A and B in the adult Guideline and applying the necessary reduction for his age and mitigation gives a sentence before discount for plea of 3 years custody which reduces to 2 years once that is taken into account.

The offence of possession of a bladed article is covered by a specific youth guideline. However a bladed article offence is not a grave crime; I have taken it into account in arriving at a sentence for the driving offence, accordingly I direct that there be no separate penalty for the bladed article offence.

A mandatory minimum disqualification of 5years applies to the offence of causing death by dangerous driving. To that must be added an extension reflecting the time TA will spend in custody, namely 1 year. That gives a total disqualification of 6 years. The need for an extended test to be passed is likewise mandatory.

The surcharge provisions apply, an order will be made in the appropriate amount taking account of [TA]’s age.
I direct that a copy of these sentencing remarks should be placed on [TA]’s file at [M].

Press application for a direction on reporting restrictions

In the weeks leading up to this hearing I have received a number of applications for a direction on reporting restrictions. Given TA’s age, none have realistically suggested that restrictions should be lifted altogether; instead they have asked for the restrictions to be amended to make it clear that they can report Marcia Grant’s name, the fact that she was a foster carer and the fact that TA was in her care when he committed the offence which caused her death.

I decline to make any direction, or to lift or vary the terms of the existing order, for the reasons which follow.
The current order imposing restrictions was made pursuant to section 45 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999. Lambert J made the order on 15 June 2023. It is in the usual terms and is clear. Her order will automatically expire on TA’s 18th birthday. That is some 5 ½ years away; the needs of TA’s welfare and rehabilitation during that time clearly outweigh the public interest in learning of his identity now. As I have said, this is something that the press applications have sensibly and humanely accepted. To be clear, it is not in the interests of justice to make an excepting direction allowing TA’s identity to be reported.

The terms of the present order do not expressly prohibit reporting of the context to this case. Rather they prohibit the reporting of anything that might lead the public to identify TA. As counsel point out the press have already reported that the deceased was a foster carer and that she died after being run over by a 12-year old child at her own home.

Leading counsel for the Crown and Defence both submit that it is a matter for the editors and their legal advisors as to how they choose to report on this case. Their duty in doing so is to comply with the terms of Lambert J’s order.

As I have said, the terms of that order are clear, in my view it could only confuse, or set an unfortunate precedent, if I were to seek to introduce caveats or qualifications to that order now. Nor do I see any need to do so. What I am really being asked to do is to advise the Press what they can and cannot report under the terms of the existing order and no court will do that. It is not for the court to tell editors and their legal teams whether reporting certain facts is or is not likely to breach the order. They know in what terms their articles are going to be written, they must look to their own advisors to tell them whether those terms will constitute a breach of the order.

Accordingly I decline to make any further direction and the order will stand in its present form.