Mr. Wayne Hood

Prayers – in the House of Commons at 12:30 pm on 5th March 1997.

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Mr. David Ilinchliffe:

I am most grateful for this opportunity to raise the circumstances of my constituent, Mr. Wayne Hood, who was convicted on 14 November 1996 of the attempted murder of his former foster parent, Terence Jarvis, and sentenced to four years' imprisonment. Jarvis was himself sentenced to seven years' imprisonment on the following day, after being convicted of the indecent assault of several children and young persons in his care over a period of 15 years.

Mr. Hood is a 27-year-old man who spent most of his childhood in care, latterly—from November 1977 until he was able to go into independent living—with Jarvis and his wife in an approved local authority foster home in the Kettlethorpe area of Wakefield. At the time of the offence, Mr. Hood was living in Kettlethorpe with his wife, Tina, and his young daughter.

On the evening of 17 March 1996, after a day's heavy drinking and a domestic dispute about his drinking, Mr. Hood visited the Jarvises' home and stabbed Terence Jarvis. I do not in any way condone Mr. Hood's actions that day, which he deeply regrets, but I believe that they should be considered against the background of his suffering in care over a long period.

The subsequent police investigation of the incident led to Terence Jarvis being charged on 15 April 1996 with four counts of assault and two of buggery between 1972 and 1989, when the four individuals concerned, including Mr. Hood, were aged between six and 16 and in his care. Jarvis pleaded guilty to the four specimen charges of indecent assault, with the two charges of attempted buggery to lie on file.

Terence and Althea Jarvis had been approved as foster carers for the local authority from 1975, and since then had fostered 15 boys, the placements varying in duration from a few days to many years. Althea Jarvis had been employed as a residential worker in a local authority children's home for 18 years, and her husband, who was a self-employed music teacher, had over time become the principal carer. Since 1976, the Jarvises had also fostered a young man with learning disabilities, and in March 1994 Terence Jarvis was approved as a fit person under the small homes regulations, and the young man remained in their care as an adult placement.

It was entirely as a result of the events of 17 March 1996—the attack by Wayne Hood on Terence Jarvis—that a series of disclosures of sexual abuse came about. As a result, an immediate local authority management investigation was launched, the social services inspectorate was informed, and the Jarvises were suspended as foster parents. Subsequently, they were formally de-registered as foster carers, and Terence Jarvis was de-registered as a fit person under the small homes regulations.

An independent counselling service has been established for those people who were directly affected, and the Wakefield area child protection committee has commissioned an independent case review. I am satisfied that the local authority is following the appropriate procedures in investigating the matter, and my sole concern today is to highlight what I believe to be the totally inappropriate four-year prison sentence being served by Mr. Hood.

The Minister will be aware of the public outcry over Mr. Hood's treatment, in view of the appalling catalogue of abuse that came to light during the court case. A campaign to free Mr. Hood has generated a petition signed by many thousands of Wakefield people, but his plight has been a matter of concern far beyond my constituency. I have had letters, including some from people in the Minister's constituency, expressing amazement that Mr. Hood should be behind bars.

Among those showing serious concern about the matter are a number who have had personal involvement with Mr. Hood's care. I have spoken to two people who nursed him in hospital as a baby. They outlined to me the serious difficulties that he had to face from the earliest part of his life.

When I met the Prime Minister recently to discuss the case—I am genuinely grateful for the personal interest that he has shown—I gave him a copy of a letter that I received in December from a couple who fostered Mr. Hood for nearly a year when he was aged seven. The Minister will also have seen the letter, which outlines serious concerns about Mr. Hood's experiences in care long before his placement with the Jarvises.

I am prevented from setting out my detailed knowledge of his experiences before that placement by the fact that Mr. Hood himself is not yet fully aware of the details of the record of his life from an early age. He is exercising his right to access his personal care file, but is at present not familiar with much of the information that it contains. He has, however, consented to my reading his file and quoting from its contents today. I am grateful for the help that I have received from Wakefield district council's director of social services and his staff in accessing relevant information.

I set out my detailed concerns about Mr. Hood's background, as described in the case file, in my letter to the Prime Minister of 26 February, following our personal discussions on the case a fortnight earlier. The Minister has seen a copy of that letter, and will understand its relevance to my concerns. I am especially perturbed about the fact that, at the time of sentencing, the court was aware of Mr. Hood's experiences with Jarvis, but apparently had no knowledge of the problems he had faced during the previous eight years.

Without going into the details given in the letter I have mentioned, it is apparent that Mr. Hood suffered a great deal as a child. The extent of that suffering is evidenced by the amount of time that he spent in hospital during the first 18 months of his life. Having been born on 17 October 1969, he spent from 22 October 1969 to 5 January 1970 in hospital. For the rest of 1970, he was in hospital again from 4 February to 6 March; from 9 July to 12 August; and from 10 October to Christmas. He was admitted again on 11 March 1971 and remained for more than a month, until he was transferred to a local authority children's home shortly after being made the subject of a care order. Most of those hospital admissions were prompted, I believe, by the consequences of serious neglect.

The Minister is aware of the serious concerns expressed about Mr. Hood's subsequent experiences by the foster parents who cared for him before his placement with the Jarvises. That placement broke down, and by the time he reached Terence and Althea Jarvis, in addition to several short periods with his natural mother, his life had consisted of five periods in hospital, two separate foster placements and five years in a children's home.

In my letter to the Prime Minister, I drew particular attention to the entry on Mr. Hood's case record at the time when he was moved to the Jarvises. The social worker concerned wrote: Having just experienced the trauma of a failure of a foster home, Wayne would particularly be seeking the reassurance of being loved and accepted". Instead, he suffered seven years of the most degrading sexual abuse.

I would have thought that such information about Mr. Hood's background was directly relevant to his state of mind at the time of the offence, but I understand that, for various reasons, it was not made available to the court, either before his conviction or before sentencing. I am not a lawyer, but I understand from Mr. Hood's solicitor, Mr. Michael Barber—who has been most helpful in working with me on the case—that various legal technicalities and anomalies meant that the circumstances that I have outlined—particularly the abuse of the young man by his foster parents—could not be accepted as any defence to attempted murder.

Mr. Barber has advised me that the abuse and psychological damage, which clearly amounted to provocation, could have provided a defence if the victim had died. I understand that the lack of discretion to treat such circumstances as a general defence is peculiar to our legal system, but the effect in Mr. Hood's circumstances is very obvious and extremely worrying.

The second aspect of what happened in court has also caused considerable disquiet. In view of the circumstances of the offence, I was astonished to discover—only recently—that the court did not have a pre-sentence report on Mr. Hood's background at the time when he received a four-year prison sentence.

I understand that the Criminal Justice Act 1991 would have required a mandatory pre-sentence report before the imposition of a custodial sentence, unless such a report was dispensed with owing to the exceptional nature of the case. That, however, was amended by the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, which removed the mandatory requirement for a report, while still containing a statutory presumption in favour of obtaining and considering such a report before sentencing. I am not arguing that Mr. Hood did not receive a fair trial, but I feel that those two factors must be taken into account in consideration of the appropriateness of his prison sentence.

I have a letter from the West Yorkshire probation service to Mr. Hood's solicitor, Mr. Barber. It was sent at the time when attempts were being made to have the case referred to the Court of Appeal. The letter—written by an experienced and respected probation officer—queries the possibility of a probation officer's report being made available to such an appeal hearing, and states: I would in any such Report be arguing very strongly for Wayne to be re-sentenced to a Probation Order with a condition he continues to see his counsellor". I would be very surprised if any court in possession of a detailed pre-sentence report on Mr. Hood's background deemed it appropriate for him to receive a custodial sentence.

The Minister is aware that, because of concerns about Mr. Hood's imprisonment, a hearing took place on 11 December before the trial judge, Mr. Justice Walker, who declined to reduce the sentence. An application to a single judge of the divisional court of the Court of Appeal for leave to pursue the appeal further was refused on 16 January. Mr. Hood has been advised by his solicitor that, as far as legal procedures are concerned, there is nothing to be gained from pursuing the matter further.

I know that the Home Secretary has powers to order the review of such sentences. He has the power to recommend the exercise of the royal prerogative of mercy in cases in which the sentencing court was unaware of matters that might have affected the sentence, and in which no avenue of appeal exists. I believe, for the reasons I have given, that Mr. Hood's case clearly meets those criteria, and I hope that the Minister will consider exercising those powers in view of the circumstances.

I believe that Mr. Hood has already received more than enough punishment for an action that he deeply regrets. I see little sense in someone who has already been damaged by his experience of the care system as a child being even more damaged by his experience of the prison system as an adult. Mr. Hood is an intelligent, pleasant, presentable young man, who has, in my view, a great deal to offer. His wife and child are standing by him.

Let me end by quoting from a letter that I received from Mr. Hood's employer, Mr. Mark Fisher, for whom he has worked for about seven years. The Minister may be aware that his employers are sending money to him weekly in prison, so that he will have some pocket money to purchase small items.

Mr. Fisher describes Mr. Hood as an honest, hard-working man, whom he has come to regard as a friend as well as an employee. When Mr. Hood is released from prison, he writes, there is a permanent position of work with my company and hopefully Wayne can be left to get on with a happy family life which is all he ever wanted".

Photo of Mr Timothy Kirkhope Mr Timothy Kirkhope The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department 12:45 pm, 5th March 1997

I have listened with care and interest to the concerns expressed by the hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Hinchliffe). I thank him for setting them out so clearly and sincerely. I am aware that, as well as writing to my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary about Mr. Hood's case, he has raised it with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. As the Minister responsible for dealing with miscarriages of justice, I am always concerned when hon. Members raise matters such as this.

The hon. Gentleman could not have set out more vividly the evident motive and the mitigating aspects of this sorry case. I know that there is also some concern about it in his constituency, and, as he has said, in other constituencies as well.

It seems that, through none of his doing, Wayne Hood was given a poor start in life. Not only was he deprived of the stable support of a caring family which so many of us take for granted; worse still, as we now know, between the ages of eight and 12 he was subjected to sexual abuse at the hands of his foster father, Terence Jarvis. As the hon. Gentleman said, Mr. Jarvis has since been sentenced to seven years' imprisonment, and I therefore do not propose to say any more about his case.

It is not in dispute that it was Mr. Hood who carried out what must be acknowledged as a very serious offence against the Jarvis family. The issue is the stated harshness of his four-year prison sentence.

I think it only right to say from the outset that, as the hon. Gentleman will know from the representations that he has made so far, real difficulties lie in the way of taking any action in respect of a person's sentence as handed down by the courts, whether through an exercise of the royal prerogative of mercy or under statutory powers vested in my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary—under section 17 of the Criminal Appeal Act 1968—to refer cases back to the Court of Appeal. I shall say more in a moment about those avenues, and about the mitigating factors in the case. First, however, let me briefly set out the circumstances in which the offence took place.

The hon. Gentleman himself first drew our attention to the case. I understand that Mr. Hood, who is now in his mid-20s, had only one previous conviction, although I note that that too was for a crime of violence. He had lived with the Jarvis family from the age of eight to the age of 15. 1 understand that he then moved out to stay with friends, but continued to see something of the family over the next 10 years or so.

On a Sunday night in March last year Mr. Hood went out drinking, getting home some time after 11 pm. It may have been the effects of alcohol or, indeed, the depressed state in which he was said to be, but, for whatever reason, there was clear evidence that he next collected a knife from the kitchen and set out for the Jarvises' home.

Meanwhile, Mr. and Mr. Jarvis had also been out for the evening. They got home at about 11.20 pm. Minutes later, Mr. Jarvis saw Mr. Hood come past his kitchen window towards the door. He let Mr. Hood into the house, thinking that he looked a hit the worse for wear. At that point, there was evidence that Mr. Hood had his right hand behind his back, in order to conceal the kitchen knife that Mr. Jarvis was not to know he was carrying.

Mr. Hood started to accuse Mr. Jarvis of breaking up his marriage. Then, producing the knife from behind his back, he stabbed him in the right side of his chest. Mr. Hood pulled the knife out of Mr. Jarvis's chest. Bleeding heavily, Mr. Jarvis staggered to the telephone to call an ambulance, before collapsing in his hallway.

That was not the end of it. Aware of some commotion, Mrs. Jarvis came down from upstairs, saw the knife and what had happened, and went to tend to her husband, who by then seemed to be unconscious on the floor. Mr. Hood pushed past her and stabbed Mr. Jarvis a second time, in the right side of the abdomen, as he lay wounded.

At about this time, the police arrived. They went to the back door, saw Mr. Hood still clutching the knife, and ordered him to put it down. He closed the door in an officer's face. Police went round to the front door. Mr. Hood had the knife at the throat of Mr. Jarvis's foster son, Paul Marshall. He refused to put down the knife or to back away so that someone could attend to Mr. Jarvis. The evidence was that he said, "I hope he dies. He's ruined my life for 10 years."

Mrs. Jarvis, by then hysterical, raised her hands to stop Mr. Hood getting any nearer to her injured husband, but, approaching from behind, he held her chin with one hand while using the other to hold the knife blade to her throat. He told police, "Come closer, and I'll slit her throat and his as well." Ambulance men had by then reached the scene, but Mr. Hood would still not let them near Mr. Jarvis. He said, "No, let him die slowly."

Unexpectedly, at that point Mr. Hood took the knife away from Mrs. Jarvis's throat and held it above her head. Seizing the moment, and with a courageous disregard for his own safety, PC Velickovic grabbed hold of Mr. Hood's arm. He knocked him to the floor, managing in the process to release the knife from the grip of Mr. Hood, who was then handcuffed and arrested.

Mr. Hood was charged in November on three counts: attempting to murder Mr. Jarvis; wounding with intent to do grievous bodily harm; and threatening to kill Mrs. Jarvis. He pleaded not guilty to the first count of attempted murder, and guilty to the other two charges.

I have had the benefit of seeing the trial judge's sentencing remarks. It is plain that the court accepted that there was very substantial mitigation, for all the reasons to which the hon. Gentleman drew attention. However, he also said: I have made the maximum possible allowance which I feel I can make for the reason that you had to attack Jarvis. I have also fully taken into account the most persuasive submissions made by defending Counsel, who if I may say has so ably represented you at this trial. I do not think, however, that it is appropriate that I should pass a suspended sentence of imprisonment in this case. At the end of the day, you took the law into your own hands and tried to kill him.In all the circumstances, the most lenient sentence I feel able to pass is a sentence of four years on count I for attempted murder. Count 2 does not arise, and the sentence on Count 3 is 18 months' imprisonment concurrent with the sentence on Count 1". I note that the hon. Gentleman has raised with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister his concern that a defence of provocation is not available in the face of an attempted murder charge. The reason why provocation is a defence for murder but not for attempted murder is that the penalties are different. A person convicted of murder must be sentenced to life imprisonment; no other penalty is available. A person convicted of attempted murder may be sentenced to life imprisonment, but the judge has complete discretion in setting the sentence. The element of provocation can accordingly be taken into account in sentencing for attempted murder. I hope that that clarifies the point.

There followed an application on 11 December for a review of Mr. Hood's sentence. I have had an opportunity to see the grounds for that application. I note that they contain express reference to the hon. Gentleman's support for Mr. Hood's case. The judge took careful and fresh account of that support, of the case's significant mitigating aspects, of the apparent strength of local feeling that Mr. Hood should have received only a suspended sentence, and of various petitions and newspaper articles.

On the evidence available, however, the trial judge said that the jury's verdict, by definition, proved a specific intent to kill. Moreover, the medical evidence was clear: Mr. Jarvis could well have lost his life. It was thanks only to PC Velickovic's bravery that medical attention reached him in time. Upholding the four-year sentence, the judge said: I made the maximum possible allowance I felt that I could make for the reasons the defendant had for attempting to kill Jarvis. These reasons were amply established by the evidence, namely the undoubted fact that the defendant had been abused over a lengthy period while the defendant was in Jarvis' care". The review of sentence procedure did not deprive Mr. Hood of the statutory right to apply for leave to appeal to the Court of Appeal. Such an application was duly lodged. It was around that time that the hon. Gentleman first raised the case with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary. We explained that, in the face of continuing proceedings, it was wrong for Ministers to comment or take any other action. Mr. Hood's correct course was to place before the court any matters which he and his legal representatives considered relevant to his appeal. I wrote to the hon. Gentleman to that effect on 15 January.

I note from the papers that leave to appeal was refused the following day, as the hon. Gentleman said. The single judge remarked: The offence of deliberately attempting to take the life of another is a terrible offence which calls for a substantial sentence. You had strong mitigation which the Judge took fully into account in passing a lenient sentence, although you do not so regard it. Leave to appeal should not be granted on the ground of a public clamour almost certainly based on an imperfect knowledge of the sentencing factors involved".

I know that the hon. Gentleman has since had a chance to discuss his continuing interest with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, to whom he has written again. However, it is against that background that we have been asked so consider taking action in Mr. Hood's case.

None of us would seek to condone the repugnant behaviour of Mr. Jarvis. He abused the trust placed in him as a foster father, and brought untold misery to the life of Wayne Hood, whom he sexually abused as a youngster. He is rightly serving a sentence on his own account. However, as the courts found, even that did not entitle Mr. Hood to pick up a kitchen knife and take the law into his own hands. He came close to killing Mr. Jarvis, and subjected Mrs. Jarvis and her foster son to a fearsome attack. He could have received a life sentence for that, but the courts had regard to the powerful mitigation advanced on his behalf.

The court of trial and the Court of Appeal have both adjudged that the four-year sentence imposed reflected the maximum possible allowance in the given circumstances. As I understand it, even Mr. Hood's lawyers, as the hon. Gentleman said, have concluded that there are no grounds for renewing an application for leave to appeal to the full Court of Appeal.

That being so, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will understand that there are no grounds on which it would be right for my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary to take action under section 17 of the Criminal Appeal Act 1968 to refer Mr. Hood's sentence back to the Court of Appeal for a further review of sentence. It is clearly not for me to offer legal advice to those concerned, but if there are said to be new or unexplored grounds that affect the length of the sentence and that have not already been before the courts, the correct course is to renew an application for leave to appeal.

The new Criminal Cases Review Commission takes up its powers on 31 March. Under section 13 of the Criminal Appeal Act 1995, the normal expectation is that the commission will not take action in a case until or unless all statutory appeal rights have been pursued. Sentencing within the limits prescribed by law, and subject to the right of appeal, is, and will remain, entirely a matter for the courts. It would not be right for the Government to seek to substitute their judgment for that of the courts, the more so when the courts have already taken such careful account of what I accept are powerful mitigating factors in Mr. Hood's case.

For similar reasons, I am afraid that Mr. Hood's case is not amenable to an exercise of the royal prerogative. Above all, the sentencing process should be transparent, and performed, as in this case, by the courts. Length of sentence is a matter for judicial discretion within the limits set by Parliament. It would be a wholly improper exercise of the prerogative to remit any part of Mr. Hood's sentence on grounds that are already before the courts, or were available to be brought before the courts.

I have noted with the greatest of care what the hon. Gentleman has had to say. This is a tragic case in every sense, and one which we have tried to approach sympathetically. He will be aware that I have seen his letter of 26 February to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. It describes what a tough and sorry time Mr. Hood had from the earliest age.

I hope that the hon. Gentleman understands that, if there are new or supplementary grounds of the sort to which he has referred, which those acting for Mr. Hood believe may impact on his sentence, the correct approach is to renew an application for leave to appeal to the full Court of Appeal. I do not wish to deter the hon. Gentleman from pursuing the matter further, if that is his wish, in the most appropriate manner.