Families of Nottingham attacks victims call for law change after killer’s sentence reviewed

‘Until the law is changed murderers will get away with murder’

The families of those killed in the Nottingham attacks have called for homicide laws to be changed following a review of the case.

Valdo Calocane pleaded guilty to the manslaughter on the basis of diminished responsibility of Barnaby Webber, Grace O’Malley-Kumar and Ian Coates.

He was sentenced to an indefinite hospital order under section 37 of the Mental Health Act after the judge was satisfied that he was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia.

Following complaints from the victim’s families the HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate (HMCPSI) looked into how the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) handled the case, where inspectors concluded that prosecutors were right to accept the manslaughter pleas, but could have handled the case better, reports the BBC.

The families had complained that they were not provided with “sufficient information at an early enough stage” in regards to the direction of the case and according to the HMCPSI the families have said that the police led them to believe the attacks were “a clear case of murder.”

The report added: “The decision to accept pleas was, understandably, always going to be unpalatable for grieving families who have suffered the most unbearable loss in such traumatic circumstances, irrespective of the stage of proceeding that decision was made and communicated.”

It also called on the government to consider changing the categorisation of homicide into three tiers – first degree murder, second degree murder and manslaughter – as recommended nearly 20 years ago by the Law Commission.

The families of the victims stated that they were “disappointed but not entirely surprised” with the findings of the report and agreed that the laws needed a revising.

Barnaby’s mum, Emma Webber, said that until the law changed “murderers will get away with murder.”

She continued by saying: “Until the law changes in this country, the diminished responsibility charge and plea means murderers will get away with murder. ”

“We have never disputed Calocane’s mental health problem, but what I would say at the moment in this country is you commit murder and have you have mental health issues, then it is very unlikely you are going to be tried for murder.

“It is abhorrent it could be downgraded to manslaughter, just because it is how the law is stated.”

The report also noted how the families felt “unsupported and secondary to the whole process.” Two of the families were invited to a meeting with the CPS and the prosecution counsel on the 24th November, 7th December and 15th January but there was no record of the Coates family being specifically told about these meetings, which led to a feeling of being “left out and overlooked.”

Ian’s son, James, said that the families “can’t breathe until everything is done and dusted” and when asked about his grievances with the charges he said that he felt there was “no opportunities to disagree and push back, we were told what was going to happen and we weren’t given an option.”

It is recommended the CPS undertake a review of all guidance relating to victim’s engagement to ensure its use of the terms “consult” or “consultation” are appropriate.

University of Nottingham first year students Barnaby, Grace both 19 years old, were fatally stabbed in the early hours of the morning on June 13th 2023 on Ilkeston Road. Police then found the body of 65-year-old caretaker Ian on Magdala Road.

Calocane pleaded not guilty to murdering Barnaby, Grace and Ian but guilty to their manslaughter on the basis of diminished responsibility. Nottingham Crown Court  accepted this plea due to his history of mental health.

Featured image via BBC.

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