Life Sentence Unjust for OCG Head in ATM Explosions Case
The defendant had faced a life sentence following conviction for a second listed offence at Oxford Crown Court. However, the Court was persuaded to impose a determinate sentence rather than the life sentence that attached to a second specified offence.
James Sheen was found by the Court to be the head of an OCG that committed a litany of offences across England over a year long period. The catalogue of crimes ranged from blowing up ATMs throughout Oxfordshire and the Home Counties, to what the judge described as an “audacious” heist at the National Horse Racing Museum in Newmarket, during which the gang stole hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of antique trophies, including the King George gold vase.
The defendant had been on licence at the time of the offending, having previously received a sentence of 14 years for a shooting in which two innocent members of the public were wounded in a shoot-out between two cars.
In light of the previous firearms offence, a guilty plea at to an explosives offence for the cash point attacks triggered, so to speak, the provisions of s.283 Sentencing Act 2020. This section dictates that when sentencing for a second listed offence, the Judge must impose a life sentence, unless to do so would be unjust in all the circumstances.
Notwithstanding the serious nature of both the index offence and the previous firearms offence, Michael Neofytou, assisted by Laura Collier, persuaded HHJ Gledhill QC not to impose the life sentence that the statutory framework called for.
It was argued that the conspiracy to cause explosions likely to endanger life was, in essence, acquisitive offending and not the type of offending envisaged by s.283 Sentencing Act 2020 - the aim of which was to target the most serious violent and sexual offenders.
There was of course a risk to life, particularly in light of the fact that the ATMs were frequently housed in mixed commercial/residential buildings, however, over a sentence hearing lasting 2 days it was argued (and accepted) that there was no intention to cause injury.
The judge imposed a total of 17 years and 4 months for the defendant’s part in the multiple conspiracies to cause explosions, conspiracies involving the dragging of ATMs out of walls, and conspiracies to burgle and steal high-value farm machinery with a combined value of over £1 million across England.
They were instructed and greatly assisted by Julian Richards (Head of Complex Crime at Reeds Solicitors, Oxford).