Nottingham killer Valdo Calocane's sentence not 'unduly lenient', judges rule

The sentence given to Nottingham killer Valdo Calocane was not "unduly lenient", senior judges have ruled.

Calocane, 32, was handed an indefinite hospital order for the manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility of Grace O'Malley-Kumar, Barnaby Webber and Ian Coates, and the attempted murder of three others last June.

The attacker's guilty pleas were accepted after medical evidence showed he has paranoid schizophrenia.

The judge at his sentencing said he would be detained at a high-security hospital "very probably" for the rest of his life.

Attorney General Victoria Prentis referred the sentence to the Court of Appeal in February, arguing it was "unduly lenient".

At a hearing last week, lawyers said Calocane should instead be given a "hybrid" life sentence, where he would first be treated for his paranoid schizophrenia before serving the remainder of his jail term in prison.

However, this was rejected in a ruling from the Lady Chief Justice Baroness Carr, Lord Justice Edis and Mr Justice Garnham at the Royal Courts of Justice in London.

In a summary of the Court of Appeal decision, Baroness Carr said: "There was no error in the approach adopted by the judge.

"The sentences imposed were not arguably unduly lenient."

She added: "It is impossible to read of the circumstances of this offending without the greatest possible sympathy for the victims of these terrible attacks, and their family and friends.

"The victim impact statements paint a graphic picture of the appalling effects of the offender's conduct.

"Had the offender not suffered the mental condition that he did, the sentencing judge would doubtless have been considering a whole life term.

"But neither the judge nor this court can ignore the medical evidence as to the offender's condition which led to these dreadful events or the threat to public safety which the offender continues to pose."

Dr Sanjoy Kumar and Dr Sinead O'Malley, the parents of Ms O'Malley-Kumar, were in court for the ruling.

In a statement, Mr Webber's mother Emma said it "proves how utterly flawed and under-resourced" the criminal justice system is - and the need for urgent reforms to the UK's homicide law".

She said: "The fact remains, despite the words of the judge, that almost 90% of people serving hospital orders are out within 10 years and 98% within 20 years.

"In effect, the families now face their own life sentence of ensuring the monster that is Valdo Calocane becomes the next Ian Brady or Fred West and is never released.

"Given the failed investigation carried out by Nottingham Police, the weak prosecution put forward by East Midlands CPS and the over-reliance on doctors' reports, there was probably no other conclusion that could be made."

She said the families' "fight for justice" would continue, and called for a public inquiry.

"We do not and never will agree that the vicious, calculated and planned attacks carried out were that of an individual who was at zero level of capability," she said.

Speaking to Sky News, she added: "He's not being treated as a criminal, he's being treated as a patient.

"We recognised he is very mentally unwell; however, as we've always said, we do not accept that he was not without ability to make rational decisions, and that he planned these heinous murders, and that he knew exactly what he was doing.

"It was wrong and he did it anyway."

Mrs Webber said the families were aware the sentence was unlikely to be changed, but that she had held an "element of hope" anyway.

Calocane was sentenced at Nottingham Crown Court in January for the fatal stabbings of 19-year-old students Mr Webber and Ms O'Malley-Kumar and 65-year-old school caretaker Mr Coates in the early hours of 13 June last year.

After killing Mr Coates, Calocane stole his van and hit three pedestrians before being arrested.

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The victims' families have consistently criticised Calocane's sentence, with Mrs Webber saying in January that "true justice has not been served", while Mr Coates' son James said the killer had "got away with murder".

At the hearing in London last Wednesday, Deanna Heer KC, representing the Attorney General's Office, said Calocane's "extreme" crimes warranted "the imposition of a sentence with a penal element, an element of punishment".

But Peter Joyce KC, for Calocane, said that none of the offences would have been committed "but for the psychosis" and that imposing a hybrid order would mean he would be "punished for being mentally ill".

The judges at the Court of Appeal could not examine or change the offences for which Calocane was sentenced and could not look at any new evidence related to the case.

Instead, they could only assess whether the sentence was unduly lenient based on the evidence before the sentencing judge at the time.