A whole-life order is ‘an extreme sentence for an extreme level of offending’, the Court of Appeal heard today as it considers the jail terms of five killers – including Wayne Couzens, the former Metropolitan Police officer who murdered Sarah Everard.

A five-judge bench – which heard there are currently 64 whole-life orders being served – is considering references brought by the attorney general, who is seeking a whole-life order in two other cases, as well as appeals by four offenders seeking a reduction in their sentences.

Couzens, 49, is appealing against a whole-life sentence imposed last September by Lord Justice Fulford, who found that his ‘misuse of a police officer’s role’ to commit his crimes was akin to ‘a murder carried out for the purpose of advancing a political, religious, racial or ideological cause’. Couzens' lawyers argue that a whole-life order was ‘wrong in principle as it had the effect of expanding the categories expressly considered by parliament as warranting such an exceptionally punitive sentence’.

Jim Sturman QC, who accepted Couzens deserves ‘decades in jail’, said in written submissions: ‘If a whole life order is inevitable regardless of plea, then defendants in [Couzens’] position are less likely to plead guilty.’

Wayne Couzens

Couzens is one of two killers appealing against a whole-life order

Source: Shutterstock

However, Tom Little QC argued for the attorney general that Couzens’ crimes were ‘a fundamental attack … on our democratic way of life’ and said Fulford had provided a ‘clear and coherent justification’ for the whole-life order.

Ian Stewart, 61, who was convicted in February of the 2010 murder of his first wife Diane Stewart, having been found guilty of murdering his second wife – children’s author Helen Bailey – in 2017, is appealing against his whole-life order.

The attorney general is also asking the Court of Appeal to impose a whole-life order in two cases, including that of Jordan Monaghan, 30, who was jailed for a minimum of 40 years for murdering his partner and two young children.

But his barrister Benjamin Myers QC told the court: ‘A whole-life order is an extreme sentence for an extreme level of offending. There has to be some caution not to apply whole-life orders with a readiness that would lead to an escalation in their use.’

In the second case, 32-year-old Emma Tustin was convicted of the murder of her six-year-old son Arthur Labinjo-Hughes and sentenced to a minimum of 29 years, a jail term the attorney general argues is unduly lenient.

The Court of Appeal has also been asked to increase the sentence imposed on Arthur’s father Thomas Hughes, 29, while the pair – and Stewart – are appealing against their sentences.

At the conclusion of the hearing, the lord chief justice Lord Burnett said the court would ‘take time to consider our decisions in these very difficult and tragic cases’.


This article is now closed for comment.