R v SHERRIF OKI (2016)

The appellant (O) appealed against a sentence of 10 years and 9 months’ imprisonment following guilty pleas to failing to comply with a serious crime prevention order (SCPO) (counts 1 and 2), fraud (count 4), possession of articles for use in a fraud (count 7) and possession of identity documents with improper intention (count 8).

O had previously been before the court for 22 deception offences and had been imprisoned for offences including possession of a firearm and ammunition with intent. Upon his release, he was made subject to a SCPO which included restrictions on his bank accounts and possession of mobile phones, and prohibited him from having a computer in his home. In breach of the SCPO, he acquired at least three mobile phones as part of his attempt to commit fraud. Following his arrest, O’s premises were searched and items were found including a laptop computer, computer tower, printer and USB stick containing 38 individuals’ details and other false identities. A second search revealed passports and a driving licence in different names. The prosecution case was that, apart from possessing the items, O was intending to use them in large-scale fraudulent activity. He had also used the identity of an old and vulnerable person to apply for credit. The sentencing judge found that O’s arrest had prevented a large-scale serial fraud; he represented a high risk to society and was capable of causing wide-scale financial harm. He considered that a varied SCPO would help to minimise the risk. The individual sentences imposed were 45 months’ imprisonment concurrent on each of counts 1 and 2, 36 months’ imprisonment on each of counts 4 and 7 to be served consecutive to each other and to the sentences on counts 1 and 2, and a consecutive sentence of 10 months’ imprisonment on count 8.

O submitted that the sentence was manifestly excessive and that it was wrong in principle to pass consecutive sentences on counts 4, 7 and 8. He contended that it was disproportionate for the SCPO to bar him from having a computer in his home.

HELD: O had set out on a campaign of fraud and if he had committed the offences as part of a campaign with another he would have been charged with conspiracy to defraud. It was appropriate to pass consecutive sentences on counts 4, 7 and 8 and O was entitled to a 10% discount for his guilty plea. Taking totality into account, the sentence was excessive. The appropriate sentence was eight years’ imprisonment comprising a sentence of 30 months’ imprisonment on count 4, consecutive sentences of 30 months’ and 22 months’ imprisonment on counts 7 and 8 and concurrent sentences of 12 months’ imprisonment on counts 1 and 2, to be served consecutively to the other sentences. As to the SCPO, there had to be special justification for any interference with what was considered to be an essential item in the home. However, the nature of the offences was to use computers to inflict harm. The judge had been entitled to conclude that the balance between O’s interest and the wider interests of society should be struck by the continuation of the order.

Appeal allowed in part

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