R v Costen (Sharon Elizabeth)

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
JudgeTHE LORD CHIEF JUSTICE
Judgment Date24 April 1989
Judgment citation (vLex)[1989] EWCA Crim J0424-3
CourtCourt of Appeal (Criminal Division)
Docket NumberNo. 514/A2/88
Date24 April 1989
Regina
and
Sharon Elizabeth Costen

[1989] EWCA Crim J0424-3

Before:

The Lord Chief Justice of England (Lord Lane)

Mr. Justice McCowan

and

Mr. Justice Potts

No. 514/A2/88

IN THE COURT OF APPEAL

CRIMINAL DIVISION

Royal Courts of Justice

MR. J.C. GIBBS appeared on behalf of the Appellant.

MR. P.L. PARKER appeared on behalf of the Crown.

THE LORD CHIEF JUSTICE
1

On 8th December 1987 in the Crown Court at Coventry this appellant, Sharon Elizabeth Costen, now aged 30, pleaded guilty to one count of indecency with a child and was sentenced to two years' imprisonment.

2

She now appeals against that sentence by leave of the full Court.

3

The count was a specimen count, which is an important consideration in the light of the arguments which have been presented to us this morning.

4

The facts of the case were these. The appellant was living with a man called Dennis George Costen. The man was a step-father, so to speak, of a girl called Lisa who at the material times was aged 11. The girl from 1979 onwards had lived with the appellant and the man in Coventry until in June 1987 she was fostered out.

5

The acts of indecency which took place, took place over a period of months when the three, that is to say the appellant, the girl and the man, were in bed together. Primarily the allegation was that the little girl had been shown how to masturbate the man. The three of them engaged in that sort of activity in bed, changing roles from time to time: one of them perhaps tickling the man and the other of the two females actually masturbating him.

6

The matter came to light when the girl, then aged 11, told her foster mother what had happened, and the police were informed. It is much to the credit of the appellant that she immediately admitted the acts of indecency when she was tackled by the police.

7

She is a woman of good character. There is one conviction, which has no relevance at all to these matters and can be disregarded. We have before us a psychologist's report which shows her to be of very low intelligence, borderline mentally handicapped, and another psychiatric report which says that although she is not mentally ill, she is a " strange woman", as it is put.

8

The basis of the submissions put before us by Mr. Gibbs, in an attractive and helpful way, can be quite simply stated. He says correctly that the sentence imposed upon this woman was the maximum sentence for this offence. On the other hand he points out that she had pleaded guilty at the first opportunity, having admitted the offence to the police, and consequently was entitled to expect that she would be given the usual discount for a plea of guilty. Indeed, as Mr. Gibbs has candidly told us, he was rash enough to have told her before the case came on that if she did plead guilty she was likely to get a discount.

9

The learned Judge took the view that this being a specimen count, and consequently representing a large number of offences of a similar nature, he would be justified in treating this as an exceptional case and declining to allow discount.

10

The general principleof discount has been examined in a number of cases. Our attention has been drawn to one in particular, the case of Barnes (1983) 5 Cr. App.R.(S) 368. I read from the headnote as follows: ""Seven years' imprisonment (the maximum) for attempted rape reduced to six, where the appellant had pleaded guilty and received no credit for his plea.

11

"The appellant pleaded guilty to attempted rape and going equipped for burglary He had collected his two daughters, together with a friend of theirs, from a railway station one night, with a view to taking the friend to her own home. Instead, he took her to his own house, sent his daughters to bed, and subsequently attempted to rape the friend, squeezing her throat and threatening her with a knife. The appellant, who had a variety of previous convictions had been released from prison nine weeks before the present offence after serving a sentence of imprisonment for rape and indecent assault…..

12

"Held: having pleaded guilty, and thereby having saved the victim the ordeal of giving evidence, the appellant was entitled to some reduction below the maximum sentence for the offence which he had committed…..".

13

Mr. Justice Leonard giving the judgment of the Court had this to say: "This Court takes the view that that submission is well founded. The maximum sentence for the offence of attempted rape is seven years' imprisonment. Having pleaded guilty, and therefore having saved the young girl the ordeal of going into the witness box and giving an account of the horrifying events which occured on the evening of the offence, the appellant is clearly entitled to some reduction below the maximum sentence. We notice in passing that it is true that he might have had a consecutive sentence for the other offence which is the subject of the other indictment, but did not do so. Nevertheless we are of the view that he is entitled to some reduction below the seven years for having pleaded guilty on the more serious matter. Clearly the reduction cannot be a substantial one, because the offence was itself very serious." Accordingly that small reduction of twelve months was allowed.

14

But there are certain exceptions, likewise well authenticated in the authorities, to that general rule that discount will be allowed for a plea of guilty. The first and most important excepotion is the protection of the public. Where it is necessary that a long sentence, if necessary the maximum sentence, should be passed in order to protect the public, in those circumstances a...

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27 cases
  • Govindnan a/l Chinden Nair; PP
    • Malaysia
    • High Court (Malaysia)
    • 1 January 1998
  • Public Prosecutor v Tan Swee Hoon
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 23 June 1993
    ... ... to refuse to grant any discount.What are those exceptions? Lord Lane CJ in the case of Sharon Elizabeth Costen 2 at p 184 observes: ... But there are certain exceptions, likewise well ... ...
  • R v Nicholas Thomas Duffy
    • United Kingdom
    • Court of Appeal (Criminal Division)
    • 15 July 2004
    ...substantially reduce the credit where the offender pleads guilty in the face of overwhelming evidence. As Lord Lane, Chief Justice, said in R v Costen [1989] 11 Cr.App.R.(S.) 182: "… where the man has been caught red-handed and a plea of guilty is practically speaking inevitable… any discou......
  • Chen Weixiong Jerriek v Public Prosecutor
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 30 April 2003
    ... ... trial and been found guilty.  The following passage from Lord Lane’s judgment in R v Costen (1989) 11 Cr App R (S) 182 was quoted approvingly by the Court of Appeal in Fu Foo Tong and ... ...
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