In a lengthy article published elsewhere on this website (read here), the outcomes of a Court of Appeal Criminal Division hearing held in July, 2021 are explored in detail. The judgment, dealing with the safety of convictions and the sentencing of a notorious criminal, known as Meggy or King Meggy, and two others, was handed down on 12th August, 2021.
This conjoined piece deals with the sentencing of Meggy, whose full name is Mohammed Nisar Khan, Tony Grant and Salman Ismail. The trial, heard at Bradford Crown Court, before HHJ Durham Hall, concluded in May, 2019. It concerned the hit and run killing of a local man known as ‘The Major’, Amriz Iqbal. Meggy was the driver and Grant was a front seat passenger in a silver Kia Sedona.
The appeals were heard before Lord Justice Fulford, Mrs Justice Thornton and Mr Justice Wall.
The Sentence Appeals/Renewed Applications
Robert Ward of counsel submitted that the disparity between the minimum term for Khan (26 years) and that for Tony Grant (17 years) was too great and resulted in a sentence for his client that was manifestly excessive. He accepted that Khan was found by the judge to be the ringleader, that his minimum term had to reflect both the murder of Amriz Iqbal and the attempted murder of Adnam Ahmed, and that he had the intent to kill. However, he submitted that the other aggravating features of the case (such as the premeditation, previous convictions and the destruction of the Kia motor car after the event) were common to both men. While it was conceded that the differences between the positions of the two men should properly have resulted in a longer sentence for Mohammed Khan, it was argued that it should not have been a difference as great as nine years. It was suggested that the minimum term of 26 years in his case might lead one to conclude that Khan’s intent to kill had been treated as an aggravating factor rather than, as it should be, Tony Grant’s intention to cause grievous bodily harm a mitigating feature.
The appeal court did not agree that the minimum term passed on Mohammed Khan was manifestly excessive. The culpability of the two men, they said, was sufficiently distinct to justify the trial judge taking the course he did.
In his sentencing remarks the judge singled out Khan as being the ringleader of the group who recruited a number of willing men including Tony Grant to provide back-up and muscle for the attack. He described Mohammed Khan as a ruthless and dangerous man who commanded obedience and loyalty, which he then abused by involving others in his plans. He considered himself untouchable. The series of events that led to the death of Mr Iqbal would not have occurred but for Khan. He set up the attack. He recruited others to carry it out. It was he who ultimately decided to use his two-ton motor car as a weapon and who formed the intent to cause the death of those two men with it. The fact that he had attempted to kill a second man necessitated a significant uplift in his minimum term despite the fact that, by chance, the second man was not seriously harmed. In contrast, the judge concluded that the intent of Grant was to cause grievous bodily harm to one man, Amriz Iqbal, rather than to kill. Afterwards, Mohammed Khan was at the heart of the plan to cover up what had been done. He did that firstly by making sure that the Kia car was never recovered and then by trying to ensure that the CCTV footage from the service station which might have implicated him in the attack was never seen by the police. He sought to achieve that by getting people to set fire to the petrol station and, when that did not work, by seeking to have the CCTV footage stolen in the course of a robbery.
Salman Ismail: Appealed against sentence (17 years for conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and arson) with the permission of the single judge and
Tony Grant: Applied for leave to appeal against sentence (17 years for conspiracy to pervert the course of justice):
Tony Grant and Mohammed Khan were sentenced to seventeen years for two offences of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice relating to the robbery and arson at the petrol station each of which was designed to prevent the CCTV from the petrol station falling into the hands of the police. The sentences in each of their cases were ordered to be served concurrently with one another and concurrently with the life sentences imposed on them. Mohammed Khan did not seek permission to appeal against those sentences; Grant renewed his application for permission to appeal, his application having been refused by the single judge.
Salman Ismail was sentenced to seventeen years’ imprisonment on each count of conspiracy and on a count of arson reckless as to the endangerment of life (Counts four, five and six). Those sentences were ordered to run concurrently with one another.
On behalf of Salman Ismail, Rodney Ferm of counsel submitted that the term of 17 years was manifestly excessive. Firstly, Ismail should not be placed in a worse position than that of Tony Grant or Mohmmed Khan because he was convicted of an offence of arson as well as two offences of conspiring to pervert the course of justice. That, Mr Ferm submitted, reflected the fact that his client was a “foot soldier” who went to the service station to help set the fire as opposed to being an organiser of events. Secondly, he had been unable to identify any previous cases involving this type of offending which had resulted in a sentence approaching this length apart from R -v- Beech  EWCA Crim 1580, the facts of which were very different. He identified R -v- Tunney  EWCA Crim 2066 as setting out the criteria to be used by a court in assessing the seriousness of offences involving an attempt to pervert the course of justice, namely the seriousness of the substantive offence, the degree of persistence of the conduct and the effect of the attempt to pervert the course of justice. Mr Ferm readily accepted that the substantive offence was murder and that there was a degree of persistence but argued that the objectives of those who participated in these offences were not achieved: the CCTV was not destroyed or stolen and the fire caused very little damage. He, thus, suggested that the proper range for these sentences was between 12 years for the ring-leaders and 8 to 10 years for others involved. Thirdly, he argued that the sentence passed on Salman Ismail did not reflect his personal mitigation: he was not a party to the murder, he became involved in these events at the last minute, this was his first custodial sentence, and he was a family man aged 31.
Timothy Raggatt QC adopted the relevant submissions made on behalf of Salman Ismail in relation to Tony Grant. He acknowledged that, absent success in his appeal against conviction, a reduction in the sentences for these offences would have no practical impact on Tony Grant’s position as he was serving a minimum term of 17 years for murder. Nonetheless, he rightly argued that if the sentences for these offences were manifestly excessive, they should be corrected in his case as well as in that of Ismail.
The appeal court said that it did not find it of assistance to refer to previously decided cases of the same court in order to assess the appropriate term. None of them provide guidance as to length (although we accept that R -v- Tunney provides guidance as to the proper approach to sentence to be adopted). Cases of this nature turn on their facts and fall to be assessed accordingly.
These were very serious attempts to pervert the course of justice. Their object was to prevent the prosecution of those who had committed murder. It is difficult to imagine a more serious objective than that. They involved a sustained course of conduct: an attempt to destroy a petrol station by fire followed by an attempted robbery. Had they succeeded in their objective, the CCTV evidence would have been lost and this was material evidence to link Mohammed Khan and Tony Grant to the offending acts. Without access to that footage, the police might not have traced those responsible. The CCTV footage remained crucially important evidence at trial even though by that stage it was not the sole evidence against Mohammed Khan and Tony Grant.
There was a degree of persistence to the conduct. Additionally, the offences agreed on by the conspirators in order to pervert the course of justice were themselves serious. The arson resulted in minimal damage. However, the clear aim of the conspiracy was to damage the petrol station to the extent that the CCTV would have been unrecoverable. This plan ran the risk that, had the fire taken hold, it might have set fire to the store of petrol held at the service station leading to potentially significant damage and an enhanced risk of loss of life. The robbery (not indicted at the Bradford trial, but an essential part of the conspiracy to pervert the course of justice)) was not persisted with, but involved two people entering the petrol station when it was in use and making threats while armed with weapons. It had the potential to escalate into an incident in which people were caused physical or psychological harm. Each of these offences alone would have attracted a significant sentence. The arson would have merited a sentence in excess of six years after trial on the basis that it was a category B1 offence in the relevant guideline (Arson: Criminal Damage by Fire). The robbery would have merited 5 years on the basis that it was category B2 in its guideline (Robbery: Street and Less Sophisticated Commercial). Those sentences would undoubtedly have been ordered to be served consecutively to one another with some small adjustment for totality. The additional and serious element of their being committed in order to pervert the course of justice in a murder investigation had to be reflected in the sentence passed by a significant uplift.
In the judgment of the appeal court, the least permissible sentence for someone at the heart of these conspiracies after trial was 14 years. That was the position that Tony Grant was in. As such, they concluded that the sentence of 17 years in his case was manifestly excessive. He was granted permission to appeal and his sentence on the arson and conspiracy to pervert counts reduced to 14 years.
The court accepted that Salman Ismail was in a different position to the other two defendants/appellants. Significantly, he was not involved in the offences of murder or attempted murder and had nothing to gain personally from a successful outcome to these conspiracies. The judge specifically found on the evidence that he was not a leader in forming the agreements. He had done as he was told by Mohammed Khan. He had some personal mitigation to be reflected in his sentence – in particular the fact that this was to be his first custodial sentence. None of that reduces the serious nature of what he did and the potentially serious consequences he tried to bring about. It does, however, mean that there should have been some distinction between his sentence and that of Mohammed Khan and Tony Grant. His sentence, the appellate bench said, should not be adversely affected by his conviction of arson which is no more than the plan encompassed by the conspiracy to pervert justice being put into action. In all the circumstances, they found that his sentence, too, was manifestly excessive and the proper sentence on him on each of counts on which he was found guilty was one of 11 years’ imprisonment. To that extent they allowed his appeal against sentence.
Page last updated: Tuesday 7th September, 2021 at 0820 hours
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