Knife killer jailed for life

A knife killer was jailed for life today in what is thought to be the first case to be dealt with under tough new sentencing powers.

Daniel Smith, 23, was told he must serve at least 20 years in prison for stabbing 26-year-old tourist Kelvin Francis in the neck outside a fish and chip shop in Walthamstow, east London.



Smith attacked Mr Francis on March 7, five days after the minimum term starting point for a knife murder was raised from 15 to 25 years.



The new powers were introduced following an outcry over a series of stabbings, led by the family of Ben Kinsella, a 16-year-old killed in north London in 2008.



Judges must decide when sentencing murderers - who automatically receive life terms - on the minimum period they must spend behind bars before they can be released on licence if a parole board sees fit.



The starting point of 15 years can be increased by aggravating features or reduced by mitigating features, in individual cases.



The tariff was raised to 25 years for murders involving a knife by then Justice Secretary Jack Straw, with the new law coming into effect on March 2.



There is already a 30-year starting point for murders involving firearms, or those committed for gain or with a sexual motive.

















Smith stabbed Mr Francis, who was visiting Britain from Grenada, in a row over £50 and a BlackBerry.

The defendant, who is also from the Caribbean island, was found guilty of murder by a unanimous jury verdict today.



Judge Richard Hone said the weapon he used was a "frightening object".



He told Smith: "This was a very sad case. The prime aggravating feature, reflected in the recent change in the law, is the carrying of the knife with the intention to do violence. That knife is a particularly vicious weapon.



"The minimum term specified by Parliament recently is one of 25 years."



The judge said he could reduce the tariff to 20 years because of the defendant's young age, his previous good character and "some form of remorse".



Smith had tried to delay the trial by falling out of bed in prison and pretending to be unable to speak.



He refused to come to court until a letter was sent explaining that the proceedings would go ahead without him.



Smith promptly turned up but as the case was about to be opened - and to the surprise of his own defence counsel - he announced: "I'd like to plead guilty."



But the judge gave him time to reconsider and he changed his mind overnight, later sacking his legal team, describing them as "very much incompetent".



The victim's father Elvin Francis, who had flown over from Grenada, was kept waiting as the trial was delayed by more than a week from its original start date.



Mr Francis was in court today to see his son's killer sentenced, and said in a victim impact statement: "Myself, my wife and our other children are totally devastated by his loss."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy