Sentence on thief who killed faces review: Ex-soldier sentenced to five years

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The Independent Online
A SHOPLIFTER who was sentenced to five years yesterday for killing a schoolboy supermarket worker when he gave chase, is to have his case studied by the Attorney General to see if it should be referred to the Court of Appeal for undue lenience.

A spokesman for the Attorney General said last night that he would be seeking a transcript and would consider whether the case came within his powers to refer the sentence for a review.

The five-year sentence imposed on Andrew Bray, 25, from Lipson, Plymouth, by Mr Justice Drake at Plymouth Crown Court appeared to be at the top end of penalties for cases of manslaughter considered by the Court of Appeal.

Bray, a former soldier who served in the Gulf war, kicked and punched unconscious 17- year-old Jonathan Roberts in the car park of Somerfield supermarket in Plymstock on 15 September last year.

The boy, a part-time shelf- stacker and keen cross-country runner, had chased after Bray, who left the store pushing a trolley full of goods without paying. Jonathan died from inhaling his own vomit.

Yesterday his father, Chris Roberts, 42, a captain in the Merchant Navy, said he was 'taken aback and basically horrified' that someone could be sentenced to just five years for such 'a terrible thing'.

'It seems to have cheapened, somehow, my son's death,' Mr Roberts said from his home in Chaddlewood, Plymouth.

'I am obviously very proud of what he did, because he stood up for what was right. But in one way we wish he had not, and that he had stopped and thought for a second before he rushed in, because then perhaps he would still be alive.

'If a sentence under the guidelines from the Court of Appeal for something like this man has done to our son is only going to be five years, then it seems to me that is not the form of British justice I would have expected.'

Outrage at the sentence was led by Gary Streeter, MP for Plymouth Sutton, the constituency where the boy lived. 'Calls have been pouring into my constituency office all day with people expressing their anger and outrage at the sentence,' he said.

'I feel myself that the sentence is too low and that justice has not been done. It may well be that when the Attorney's office has studied the case they will not be able to refer it but we cannot leave any stone unturned to see that justice has been done.'

When sentencing Bray, Mr Justice Drake said that previous decisions by the Court of Appeal in similar cases had led to shorter sentences than he felt were deserved.

The Home Office said that there were no set guidelines for sentences for manslaughter cases. However, details of similar cases are in the legal reference book Current Sentencing Practices so that judges pass sentences consistent with other judges.