From The Herald, Plymouth:-
TWO men have been jailed for life – with a minimum term of 23 years – for the murder of Tanis Bhandari on New Year's Day. Donald Pemberton was found guilty of jointly murdering the 27-year-old builder and injuring four other men. The jury at Plymouth Crown Court appeared to have reached deadlock after deliberating for 13 hours and 55 minutes since they were sent out on Tuesday morning by Mr Justice Nigel Teare.
At 11.34am yesterday he informed the jury of seven women and five men he would accept majority verdicts if they were unable to return a unanimous ones.A little over an hour later they returned to seal Pemberton's fate. He was found guilty on the count of murder, three counts of wounding with intent and one count of actual bodily harm, each with an 11 to 1 majority.
Despite being asked by the judge to remain silent during the verdicts being read out, stifled gasps and crying could be heard from the public gallery, which has remained full for nearly every day of the 16-day trial. Pemberton, aged 21, gave no great reaction as the verdicts were read out. He appeared to look around the court room, place his hands on his hips and behind his back, occasionally rubbing his face with the back of his hands.
Pemberton, of Victoria Road, St Budeaux, and his co-defendant, Ryan Williams, of Haydon Grove, St Budeaux – who pleaded guilty to all five charges on the fourth day of the trial – were brought back to the dock in the afternoon where their respective advocates offered mitigation in their defence. Pemberton, who throughout the trial had been dressed in a dark grey shirt and black tie, had changed into a black and grey sweat-top, while 22-year-old Williams, appeared in a light blue shirt and dark tie.
Paul Dunkels, QC, said his client Ryan Williams had shown “absolute cowardice" in attacking unarmed strangers and was “undoubtedly an immature young man." He said Williams had never set out to kill, but accepted that they did set out to cause serious injury – in itself enough to make him guilty of the offence. He noted their “escalating behaviour" on the way down the hill to Tamerton Foliot green.
He said Williams was “relishing the reaction which their behaviour was achieving, their sense of power over others and the people who backed away. “The final group stood up for themselves as they were entitled to do. It was a situation entirely of Donald Pemberton's and Ryan Williams' making." Mr Dunkels said that Williams wanted to posture with the weapons and verbally abuse those men he had targeted from Facebook. He said it was a “small step" from carrying a knife to using it. He stressed the defendant's age and immaturity but said he had seen the need to plead guilty on the fourth day of the trial.
Mr Dunkels said: “To paraphrase, he said he saw the family and friends of Tanis Bhandari in court and what they were having to go through. He saw their pain and upset. “He then indicated to us that he wanted to be no part of prolonging their ordeal in having to observe the trial. “He realises that the hurt caused goes far wider than just those victims but embraces their families and friends and to some extent his own family. “He understands how much his actions have affected the lives of others.
“He is sorry for what he did that night. He has remorse. He realises that none of that will bring comfort to those grieving. “His actions of January 1 were those of absolute cowardice but he is a young man who, knowing the consequence was a very long time in prison, has shown some courage in taking the decision to plead guilty."
Pemberton's advocate, Martin Meeke, QC, said his client suffered “significant mental health difficulties" and revealed his suicide attempt just four weeks before the incident on the Tamerton Foliot green. Mr Meeke said a psychiatrist who has assessed Pemberton suspected developing schizophrenia, although the court also heard his symptoms may have been caused by his regular mephedrone abuse. The barrister said he still suffered those symptoms even after going to prison and withdrawing from the drug.
Mr Meeke said that Pemberton's suicide attempt had taken place on December 2, and that he was on the lowest possible measure on the Glasgow Coma scale – the measure of a casualty's consciousness. Mr Meeke said it showed it was a “serious attempt".
He speculated that the events of New Year's Day may have had their roots back to 2007 when Pemberton himself was the victim of a street attack. Mr Meeke said his mother had reported that he suffered a fractured cheekbone, but 13-year-old Pemberton did not give evidence against the main offender. The court heard that he nevertheless was branded a “grass" or informer at his school.
Mr Meeke said he had started off confidently at secondary school but underwent a “significant change" after the attack. The barrister said the defendant came to believe that others were “out to get him" and thought that he needed to carry weapons as a result. He added that Pemberton showed empathy for Mr Bhandari's family when he read a statement from her mother. Mr Meeke said: “He observed: 'I have written letters to his mum but ripped them up because I did not want her to feel awkward'."
He added he could not recall the events of the night of the affray in Anstis Street when he had brandished meat cleavers at a group of Polish men, because he had been drinking. But Mr Meeke said that when shown the dramatic CCTV footage Pemberton branded his own behaviour as “disgusting". He could not recall where he had picked up the weapons. Mr Meeke urged Mr Justice Teare to pass a minimum term “so as not to crush utterly the hope in this young man".
Mr Justice Teare described how the two men had confronted the “happy and carefree" group of young men and women who had left The Kings Arms public house shortly after 1.30am. He said there was “no doubt" Pemberton had the axe and Williams had a large kitchen knife and that one of them had a smaller knife.
He said both defendants were in “an aggressive mood", aiming to take the weapons to a confrontation “with someone who had angered Pemberton". The mixture of verbal insults, threats, aggressive behaviour led to Williams getting out the large knife and putting it to the neck of a young man “no doubt causing extreme fear".
Mr Justice Teare told the court Pemberton pulled out the axe and “lunged" at Tanis's group. He added: “One or more of the group reacted with courage by jumping on him, in – as described by one witness – 'a mission' to get the axe off him.
“They succeeded, but Williams joined in and stabbed Tanis Bhandari in the back with the large knife." He said Williams also stabbed Jamie Healy. Sean Cordon was also stabbed in the back and Mr Justice Teare said this could have been by Pemberton, “but I cannot be sure." He said: “The result of this unnecessary and unprovoked action was that Tanis Bhandari lost his life. Jamie Healy suffered very serious injuries. his life was saved by doctors. Fortunately the injuries of Sean Cordon, George Walker and Matthew Daw were less serious." The judge noted the victim impact statements he had received, noting one from Tanis's mother.
He said Tanis died aged just 27, leaving a mother, father, stepfather, grandfather, seven brothers and sisters together with nieces and nephews. He said Tanis was a “much loved member of the community of Tamerton Foliot as the memorial on the green shows." He added: “His unexpected and unnecessary death and what happened on a night of celebration and optimism for the future has changed his family's lives forever."
After passing sentence the two men were led away by the eight dock officers who had remained with them. As they turned towards the door a member of Pemberton's family called out “love you Don, always".
From The Herald, Plymouth:-
COULD the murder of Tanis Bhandari have been avoided? That question is now being asked after The Herald learned how his murder Donald Pemberton’s arrest on December 16, 2014 could have seen him returned to prison for failing to comply with his licence. We can today reveal this footage as Pemberton was found guilty of murdering Tanis on New Year's Day.
Following his conviction for assaulting a man on Christmas Eve, 2013, Pemberton was handed a 12 month community order on January 12, 2014. On June 13, he was arrested after he was found to be in possession of a machete in public. As a result, on September 2, 2014, Pemberton was handed a four month jail sentence by district judge Kevin Gray at Plymouth Magistrates’ Court.
He was released from prison after serving two months, but his arrest on December 16 – having been spotted the previous night on CCTV brandishing two meat cleavers in Anstis Street, Stonehouse – saw him interviewed by police. It is believed he was not charged at the time and released on police bail pending further inquiries.
According to court reports seen by The Herald, Pemberton appeared at Plymouth Magistrates Court on January 16, 2015 – just over two week after the murder of Tanis Bhandari. The case, brought by Devon and Cornwall Probation, related to the Anstis Street incident.
The court document states that Pemberton: “being a person under supervision, under section 65 of the Criminal Justice Act 1991, failed to comply with a requirement specified in a notice from the Secretary of State in that failed to comply with a licence condition; to be well behaved, not commit any offence and not do anything which could undermine the purpose of your supervision, which is to protect the public, prevent you from reoffending and help you to resettle successfully into the community.”
The matter was adjourned until January 23, 2015 “at request of the prosecution to consider if proceeding”. However, on January 23, the charged was “withdrawn”. Court papers stated that the reason was “at the request of probation.”
The Herald has learned that a Serious Further Offence review has been carried out by the Ministry of Justice to determine the decision-making around Pemberton by the probation service following his arrest on December 16. However, a spokesman for the Ministry of Justice said the findings of reviews were not made public but that the families of victims were entitled to a summary of the review.
Sources have told The Herald the review has examined decisions made by probation officers at the time of his arrest in mid December. It is understood options that may have been available was Pemberton could have been given a condition, such as an electronic tag, a curfew or returned to prison to complete his four-month sentence.
It is not known whether the Crown Prosecution Service considered approving a charge of affray on December 16 2014 following his arrest, which may have also resulted in him being brought to court.