R v Chapman

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
CourtCourt of Appeal (Criminal Division)
Judgment Date22 July 1999
Neutral Citation[1999] EWCA Crim J0722-7
Judgment citation (vLex)[1999] EWCA Crim J0722-21
Docket NumberNo. 98/4967/Z4

[1999] EWCA Crim J0722-21


Royal Courts of Justice

The Strand

London WC2


The Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales

(Lord Bingham of Cornhill)

Mr Justice Alliott


Mrs Justice Steel

No. 98/4967/Z4

Jamie Lee Chapman

MR E FITZGERALD QC appeared on behalf of THE APPELLANT

MR J DE BURGOS appeared on behalf of THE CROWN


Thursday 22 July 1999


The appellant Jamie-Lee Chapman is aged 22, having been born in March 1977. On 20 May 1996, in the Crown Court at Peterborough, he pleaded guilty to arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered. Sentence was postponed to a later date for reports, and on 1 August 1996 he was sentenced on that count to life imprisonment. Under section 34 of the Criminal Justice Act 1991, a period of twelve months was ordered to be served before consideration of release. A verdict of not guilty was entered on the first count of the indictment which charged the appellant with arson with intent to endanger life. He appeals against sentence by leave of the single judge.


The brief facts of the offence are these. The appellant lived in a unit catering for young adults at 21, St Peter's Road, Wisbech. He shared accommodation with another resident. The manager of the unit was a gentleman named Mr Dangerfield.


On 20 February 1996 the appellant and another had been out and they returned to the room which they occupied. The fire alarm kept going on and off for about half an hour and Mr Dangerfield, who was cooking supper, attributed it to his cooking operations. However, when the appellant finally came downstairs for his meal Mr Dangerfield could see at the top of the landing smoke which was becoming thicker. He told the residents to leave the building. The appellant left by the front door, slamming it behind him. Mr Dangerfield went to the back door and found that it was locked, although the appellant denies that he was responsible for locking it. Mr Dangerfield could no longer see the front door because the smoke was so thick and was getting thicker. He managed to open the kitchen door and leave the house. He alerted the neighbours.


That evening the appellant was arrested and interviewed. It appeared that he had had a disagreement with another occupant of the unit, and he described how he had set the fire alarm off by spraying air freshener and lighter fuel from a cigarette lighter and had then set fire to it. He had gone upstairs with a bucket of water when invited to do so and said that he had never at any stage thought about endangering life and very strongly denied that he had ever intended to injure anyone.


The sentencing judge had before him a number of reports, of which three in particular are significant. The first of these, written by Dr Fegetter, a consultant psychiatrist, was dated 13 June 1996. He had interviewed the appellant and formed the opinion that there was no evidence of any treatable mental illness. He agreed in that with an earlier psychiatrist who had examined the appellant and with the other reports. He was, however, of opinion that there was considerable evidence of a personality disorder and concluded his report by saying:

"I would have to say that someone who started lighting fires at the age of nine, had a further pronounced period of lighting fires between the ages of 11 and 13 and now has resorted to fire setting again when he felt that he was not being paid enough attention is liable to be a continued risk of setting further first at any time in the future when he feels frustrated. I see from the reports that he has been noted to have very considerable problems with temper and anger control in the past and I would have to say that I would see him as being a very considerable risk in the future of setting further fires. I do not think that this is amenable to treatment since this is not being driven by any mental illness. I can only raise my own concerns that Mr Chapman presents a very considerable danger to the public for the foreseeable future."


That was supplemented by a report from Dr Solomka, a senior registrar and clinical lecturer in forensic psychiatry, who wrote a report dated 18 July 1996. She concluded that the appellant reacted to stressful events in various ways, some of which involved a deterioration of mood, violent outbursts, and on occasion setting fires. She believed that his conduct disclosed a personality disorder, but did not regard him as suffering from a treatable medical illness. She said:

"In terms of future fire setting I would concur with probation officer, Margaret Mason's report and Dr Fegetter's report that there is a risk that he will re-offend by setting fires. Whether this amounts to a risk of serious harm is I believe up to the Court to decide. The risk of future fire setting is closely linked with his personality; episodes of low mood, perceived hostility and criticism, anxiety and resentment are times when the risk of setting a fire would be higher."


The third of the leading reports before the judge was written by Dr Smith, senior registrar in forensic psychiatry, dated 22 July 1996. He described in very considerable detail and with great care the extraordinarily difficult and turbulent upbringing which the appellant had endured, beginning with incidents of severe abuse in the parental home, which led to his being taken for a short period into care at the age of four. His experiences at school were of an extremely unhappy kind, partly because of medical problems from which he suffered, and partly because of his then diminutive stature which rendered him a natural target for bullies. At the age of eleven, as the result of serious abuse at home, he was taken into care and was over the next few years resident in a number of institutions in which he was extremely difficult and disruptive on many occasions. On a number of these occasions he set fires, although none of them caused serious damage or injury. There was, however, a history of fire setting. There was also a history, which was substantiated, of very severe sexual abuse of which the appellant was the victim. Dr Smith concluded his report by expressing the view that the appellant was not suffering from a mental disorder within the meaning of the Mental Health Act 1983 and that there was no ground for any psychiatric disposal. He said:

"He exhibits a significant degree of mental instability which places him at substantial risk of committing similar offences. Whilst living in the community he represents a considerable risk to the safety of others. It is not possible at this time to predict when he will cease to present a substantial risk to the safety of others."


The sentencing judge did not have the benefit, as we have, of later reports and had to pass sentence without that assistance. It is however convenient at this stage to mention the reports which are now before us, it being appreciated that very nearly three years have elapsed since sentence was passed.


The first of those is a report by Dr Tegwyn Williams, dated 26 April 1999. Following long interviews with the appellant he describes his history and his state of mind in considerable detail. In particular, he describes the appellant's reaction to the various forms of treatment which have been made available to him over the past three years. He writes:

"On balance I think, therefore, that Jamie Chapman appears to be moving in the right direction and the risks appear to have reduced since his start of the current sentence. It is, however, clear that the improvement has only been maintained for a relatively short period and that it would be unsafe for Jamie Chapman to return to the community at the present time.

Returning Jamie Chapman to the community is going to be a slow and careful task which will involve habilitating him and helping him develop the appropriate skills, both practical and emotional, for survival in the community, whilst at the same time assessing Jamie Chapman's response to increasingly stressful situations and helping him develop an appropriate range of coping strategies. It is difficult to predict the rate at which this procedure can take place, but Jamie Chapman's good response to date suggests that such an approach may well be successful."


In response to a request for elucidation made by those now representing the appellant Mr Tegwyn Williams, on 19 July 1999, clarified the practical effect of his recommendation. He then added this:

"For the purpose of this addendum, I have been asked by counsel to consider a hypothetical situation that Jamie Chapman be made subject of a long determinate sentence of say ten years, and whether or not this would provide adequate public protection. For the sake of this hypothetical situation, I would consider Jamie Chapman to spend a period of approximately three to four years in custody."


We interpolate that the doctor has since made it plain that he means from now. The addendum continues:

"As mentioned in the body of my report, I am of the view that Jamie Chapman appears to be moving in the right direction as far as risks of further fire setting are concerned and he requires help in developing both the practical and emotional skills for survival in the community and testing him out in increasingly stressful situations to help him develop an appropriate range of ways of coping with his feelings. Should the current progress be maintained for a period of three to four years, whilst it is impossible to be certain, it is in my view likely that the level of risk would be appropriate for Jamie Chapman to return to the community. If during that period Jamie Chapman does not improve and indeed sets another fire, the option would remain open to the...

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