Was I the only one concerned at the sentence passed down the other day on Muhiddin Mire? This from the Guardian:-
Leytonstone knife attacker sentenced to life
A mentally ill taxi driver who cut the throat of a stranger at a London tube station has been given a life sentence with a minimum term of eight and a half years after a judge concluded the attacker was motivated by Islamic extremism. Muhiddin Mire, 30, who has paranoid schizophrenia, told police the rampage in December 2015 was an act of revenge for coalition airstrikes in Syria, which the UK government had voted to support three days previously.
Judge Nicholas Hilliard, the recorder of London, told Mire he would be immediately transferred to Broadmoor, the high-security psychiatric hospital in Berkshire. The type of sentence handed down to Mire means that if he is found to be free of symptoms and subject to review he could be transferred to prison to serve the remainder of the term. Hilliard said: “This was an attempt to kill an innocent member of the public for ideological reasons by cutting his throat in plain sight for maximum impact.”
Mire, who had downloaded Islamic State propaganda before the attack, was convicted in June of attempted murder for stabbing 56-year-old Lyle Zimmerman and threatening four other travellers at Leytonstone station, east London.
But doctors giving evidence to the hearing conflicted over whether Mire’s mental illness was the sole reason for the attack. Dr Shaun Bhattacharjee, a Broadmoor forensic psychiatrist, told the court Mire’s interest in extremism was a symptom of his mental disorder. But Dr Philip Joseph told the judge it was possible for Mire’s obsession with Islamic terrorism to be separate from the illness.
Ultimately, Hilliard sided with Joseph’s argument. “What the defendant was intent upon was designed to intimidate a section of the public that were there to witness what he was doing. This was not carried out in secret but very brazenly indeed. It was carried out to advance a religious or ideological cause, namely Islamic extremism.” Hilliard said Mire’s interaction with commuters in the tube station during the attack was evidence of his awareness of what was going on around him.
It was revealed during an earlier hearing that Mire was sectioned in 2006 and released with a prescription for antipsychotic medication after two weeks in hospital. He was put in touch with a community mental health team upon his release but soon lost contact with them and stopped taking the medication. In the years before the attack, Mire became increasingly unwell and was probably already exhibiting symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia.
Among “strange” ideas Mire had was a belief that the former prime minister Tony Blair was his guardian angel and that he had been possessed by evil spirits, the court heard. His paranoid delusions later manifested in a belief that he was under surveillance by the security services and was being followed.
Bhattacharjee told the court the prevailing culture – in this case a heightened state of tension over Islamic terrorism – could often inform schizophrenics’ delusions. As an example, Bhattacharjee said in the 1970s some paranoid schizophrenics experienced delusions related to the IRA and Irish terrorism.
During the attack, Mire shouted, “This is for my Syrian brothers. I’m going to spill your blood.” But Joseph told the same hearing that this interest in extremism was separate from his mental illness, not fuelled by it.
Mire told police in the hours after his arrest that the attack was an act of vengeance for coalition airstrikes in Syria. On 2 December, the government voted in favour of extending bombings against Isis targets in the Middle East to include Syria. He had images of the soldier Lee Rigby and a British Isis killer on his phone, along with material linked to the terror group. The court heard Mire started viewing Isis videos online three years before the attack.
There are a number of things I simply don't understand about this case, not least how someone mentally ill can be held criminally responsible for their actions? In addition, I've always been concerned about conflicting expert medical evidence when commissioned by either the prosecution or defence. Why can't the experts be commissioned by the court instead and avoid the suspicion that an experts opinion is being cherry-picked? Finally, I didn't understand the mechanism for sending him to Broadmoor Special Hospital straight after sentence, until I read this from the Mental Health Cop blog:-
Muhiddin MIRE was today sentenced by a criminal court following the attack at Leytonstone Underground station last December that made prominent national headlines. I admit, I had a bit of a job initially piecing together what exactly the court had done, following vague media reports that appeared somewhat to contradict themselves! One simply claimed the man had been sentenced to ‘life in jail’ whilst another that he would ‘begin his sentence at Broadmoor’. This made me wonder whether, in fact, the court had sentenced him to what’s known as a hybrid order – this turns out to be exactly what they’d done; so I thought I’d quickly explain it, in case of any doubt as to what this means!
Before I do, I’d observe that somewhere between being charged with attempted murder by the police and his sentencing today, he has been transferred between the criminal justice and mental health systems. When he first appeared at court, there would be no power for Magistrates to remand the defendant to hospital under the Mental Health Act. At or after his first appearance at the Crown Court, he could be transferred and that has obviously occured and facilitated a period of assessment by the psychiatrists who have given professional opinion to the sentencing judge. The defendant has pleaded guilty to the offence, notwithstanding that his mental illness is serious enough to mean he reaches the threshold for admission to hospital under the MHA.
So this is yet another example to prove the point that serious mental illness does not always equate to a lack of criminal responsibility for serious crimes. Indeed, as previously pointed out, attempted murder is the most difficult kind of assault to prove – because a charge of murder succeeds if it can be proved that the defendant intended to kill or seriously injure the victim; attempted murder requires proof of intent to kill. A notably higher threshold to satisfy.
A hybrid order means that the court can issue a ‘normal’ criminal sentence of imprisonment to any defendant over the age of twenty-one, but they will first be admitted to hospital under the Mental Health Act for treatment. It then depends how long the patient’s treatment lasts as to whether they are discharged from hospital or transferred to prison to complete that original sentence. All of this is done under s45A of the Mental Health Act 1983.
So in Muhiddin MIRE’s case, he was sentenced to ‘life imprisonment with a recommendation that he serve a minimum of 8.5yrs in jail’, commencing with the treatment aspect of the hybrid order. Let’s imagine he remains in hospital for 6yrs receiving treatment, he will then be transferred to prison for a minimum period of 2.5yrs before the Parole Board would be able to take any decision about his release from prison. Were his hospital treatment to last 9yrs, then release would beconsidered – but not necessarily granted! – as soon as the clinician in charge of his care recommended discharge from hospital. If the Parole Board did not grant immediate discharge, he would be transferred to prison to serve further time in jail until his case for release is reconsidered.
Finally, anyone made subject to a hybrid order after conviction for any offence specified in Schedule 1 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003, will be subject to the provisions of Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements, or MAPPA. These are arrangements which aim to ensure, amongst other things, post-release mechanisms through which public authorities cooperate to share information, to ensure risks are properly managed in the community, if or when a patient is discharged or prisoner released.
So this is the only form of sentence which combines two periods of detention: first in hospital and then in prison. These orders seem to becoming more popular amongst judges, the point being that they prevent people with serious mental illnesses who are convicted by the courts of being subject to a far shorter period of detention under a (restricted) hospital order than they would have done if they had been sentenced only to a period in prison.
And we could debate the ethics that sit behind that approach, all day long … on another day!
Somewhat strangely, I notice that the regular legal bloggers have yet to comment on this case.