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Manchester Evening News
Manchester Evening News
Thomas Molloy & Nicole Wootton-Cane

Why thug who left Sikh leader for dead after brutal attack legally couldn't have been jailed for more than three years

Last June, a Sikh priest was left for dead in the middle of the road in a sickening assault. Avtar Singh, 62, suffered life-changing brain injuries after the attack on Tib Street.

Police issued CCTV of the incident in a bid to find the attacker, and after a successful public appeal, 28-year-old Claudio Campos was arrested and charged over the assault. Yesterday, Campos was sentenced to three years imprisonment at Manchester Crown Court.

In her sentencing remarks, Judge Hilary Manley acknowledged that 'no sentence I can pass can adequately reflect or compensate for the impact caused to Mr Singh and to his family'.

READ MORE: "You hid like a coward... you're nothing but a thug": Heartbroken family's emotional words to attacker

Judge Manley told him: "You left him, clearly seriously injured, lying in the middle of the street. As far as his family are concerned, and given what you later told the police, you left him for dead. He is still alive, but his life bears no resemblance to what it was.

"He has suffered severe and ongoing cognitive and physical impairments, which are almost inevitably going to be with him for the rest of his life. At present, almost four months on, he remains in hospital."

But Judge Manley - like every other judge in England and Wales - was bound by certain rules and guidelines in sentencing that help explain why Campos' sentence was that of three years.

How Judge Manley came to her final sentence

Firstly, judges are bound by sentencing guidelines that are set by the Sentencing Council. One of the main reasons for these guidelines is consistency when it comes to length of sentence for certain crimes.

Campos was charged by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) with a Section 20 assault (inflicting grievous bodily harm). This is less serious than a Section 18 assault (inflicting grievous bodily harm with intent). As a result, the judge’s sentencing powers were limited to an absolute maximum of 5 years.

However, Campos also pleaded guilty at the first opportunity when he appeared at the magistrates court for his initial hearing. Defendants who plead guilty at this stage get a reduction (or credit) of one third from the sentence they would have received had they been convicted after trial.

Campos pleaded guilty at the first opportunity, which entitles him to one third credit (PA)

Defence lawyers will put forward mitigation on behalf of their clients and in this case, Campos’ counsel told the court that he has no previous convictions in the UK or his birth country of Chile. Judges also take this into account.

Judge Manley explained the sentence to the family and provided members of the press with her written sentencing remarks, which include the full explanation. She said: “You [Campos] are aged 28 and you have no previous convictions or cautions recorded against you. You have pleaded guilty at the lower court and will receive appropriate credit for that guilty plea.

“I am required to have regard to the sentencing guidelines for Inflicting Grievous Bodily Harm. It is important that all those who have an interest in this case understand that the maximum sentence for this offence is one of five years’ imprisonment. There is no sentence that I can pass that can adequately reflect or compensate for the impact caused to Mr Singh and to his family.

“I consider first your culpability. In my carefully considered view, the following factors are present: firstly your victim was obviously vulnerable due to his age (several decades older than you).

Campos was identified after a successful CCTV appeal (GMP)

“Secondly, it is clear from the CCTV footage that this was a persistent assault: you pursued him, you punched him twice, you then grabbed his clothing and delivered another punch, all to his head. He was simply trying to get away from you. You used your fist, you did not simply shove him or push him, and I consider that, in the context of this case, to be the use of a weapon equivalent. Thus in my view, within the context of offences of Inflicting Grievous Bodily Harm, your culpability is high.

“The harm you have caused is at the highest level, in fact it is difficult to conceive of an offence of Inflicting GBH contrary to section 20 of the Offences Against The Person Act 1861 (as opposed to Inflicting GBH with intent, contrary to s.18 of the same Act) in which such a very severe level of harm is caused to the victim. For that reason, in my view, this justifies an upward adjustment to reflect that this is among the most serious examples of such an offence that it is possible to contemplate. Taking account of all the above, I am of the view that the correct starting point in this case is one of four and a half years’ imprisonment.

Claudio Campos was sentenced to three years imprisonment - there are a number of reasons why Judge Manley reached this sentence (Greater Manchester Police)

“I turn to potential mitigating features. It is true that you have no previous convictions or cautions recorded against you. However, you left your victim for dead, and you deliberately did not make yourself known or hand yourself in to the police for a period of almost three months.

“And even then the police had to come for you: it is doubtful you would ever have handed yourself in. In terms of remorse, while I accept that you are deeply regretful about the situation in which you find yourself, and doubtless sorrowful about your victim’s plight. I am not satisfied that you are remorseful. In your letter to me, you turn very swiftly to consideration of your own situation, and to a plea to be spared a prison sentence.

“Thus in all the circumstances, the correct sentence after trial would be one of four and a half years’ imprisonment, or 54 months. You pleaded guilty at the lower court and you are entitled to and will receive one full third reduction in your sentence, taking the sentence to one of 36 months’, or three years’ imprisonment.”


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