Decision on killer's sentence attacked

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THE FATHER of a schoolboy supermarket worker killed by a shoplifter yesterday attacked the Attorney General's decision not to refer the case to the Court of Appeal as marking 'a charter for criminals'.

Andrew Bray, 25, was jailed for five years after punching 17-year-old Jonathan Roberts, who had tried to stop him making off with goods worth pounds 120 from a Plymouth supermarket. Jonathan died after choking on his vomit.

Bray, of Lipson, Plymouth, who admitted manslaughter at Plymouth Crown Court, could be free in less than two years as he had been on remand for seven months.

An outcry at the sentence prompted the Attorney General, Sir Nicholas Lyell, to consider whether it was unduly lenient, and if he should apply for leave to refer the case to the Court of Appeal.

But yesterday Kevin McGinty, an Attorney General's office spokesman, said that after careful consideration, Sir Nicholas had decided not to refer the case. He could not say the sentence was so lenient that it fell outside the range of punishment available to the judge, Mr Justice Drake.

Jonathan's father, Chris Roberts, 42, a Merchant Navy captain of Chaddlewood, Plymouth, expressed his disgust. He said: 'The public wants stronger sentencing and a deterrent to crime, and what we are getting is the exact opposite. It is a charter for criminals.

'What deterrent is there for you to go out and rob a store and kill someone if you only expect to be in jail for a maximum of only three years? There is no deterrent in that at all. You are sending a signal to the criminal community that they can rob and kill with impunity.'

Gary Streeter, Tory MP for Plymouth Sutton, said: 'I think it is time for an overhaul in the manslaughter law. I do not think it is satisfactory.'

When Mr Justice Drake passed sentence he said that his powers were restricted by Court of Appeal guidelines.