Today (29 January 2020) judgment was handed down by the Court of Appeal in the case of R v Katira. Danielle Reece-Greenhalgh of Corker Binning has acted for Mr Tarang Katira throughout the criminal proceedings. This is the first time the Court of Appeal has considered the new criminal offence of Engaging in Controlling and Coercive Behaviour, which came into force in December 2015.
Following a guilty plea (on a restricted and agreed basis) in August 2019 to one count of Engaging in Controlling and Coercive Behaviour, Mr Katira was sentenced at Isleworth Crown Court to 22 months’ immediate custody.
This sentence was appealed on the basis that the judge had taken too high a starting point, had erred in finding that the complainant was “particularly vulnerable” and had failed to take adequate account of the substantial mitigation adduced on Mr Katira’s behalf. The Court of Appeal, whilst keen not to make allowances for any domestic abuse, agreed that the threshold for “particular vulnerability” was not passed in this case. The complainant was employed, financially independent and benefitted from good social and familial support, unlike many victims of controlling and coercive behaviour. It was held that there must be “something more” present in a victim’s personal circumstances in order for the offending behaviour to be placed in the most serious sentencing category. It was noted that the most serious cases of coercive control would include, for example, victims who were particularly young or old, pregnant, or from abroad with no support network. It was for these cases that the most punitive sentences should be reserved.
Danielle Reece-Greenhalgh of Corker Binning commented that: “Mr Katira is pleased that the Court of Appeal has, after carefully examining the sentencing guidelines, amended the terms of his sentence, the result of which led to his immediate release from custody. The judgment also provides welcome guidance for lawyers, prosecutors and defendants grappling with this new and extraordinarily wide offence.”