R v Lowe
Sentencing Remarks by Mr Justice Singh 31 October 2014
[The defendant may remain seated for the time being].
1. You have been convicted by the jury of the murder of Christine Lee and Lucy Lee on 23 February 2014 at Keepers Cottage Stud near Farnham in Surrey. You have also been convicted of the possession of a firearm (a shotgun) with intent to endanger life.
2. You are and were at the time 82 years of age and a man of previous good character. You lived at the cottage for some 45 years and had been in the business of breeding dogs and dealing in horses as well as other work. Your partner of many years died in the spring of last year and this clearly had a traumatic effect on you.
3. You had known Christine Lee (aged 66) for some 25 years and had had a relationship with her on and off during that time. After the death of your partner, Christine Lee felt sorry for you and wanted to come to your cottage to look after you. She moved to the cottage in September last year and was staying there in February this year. Her daughter Lucy Lee (aged 41) was also staying from time to time at the cottage to help her mother and to help you look after the animals at your property.
5. On the morning of Sunday 23 February you lost your temper and took your shotgun out of its locked cabinet and used it to kill Christine Lee. She died of a single shotgun wound to the chest fired at close range at an angle from above. Lucy Lee was able to use her mobile phone to make a frantic and desperate call to the emergency services on 999. She said that you had shot her mum and that she feared that you were going to shoot her as well. Nevertheless in an act of extraordinary courage, she went back; no doubt to see if there was anything she could do to help her mother. You then used the shotgun to shoot her twice, once to the back of the head and then fatally to the chest, again from an angle from above. In the meantime you must have had to reload your weapon because it had two barrels.
6. You then set about doing what you had planned to do all along, which was to put down four dogs at the premises.
7. I have taken into account the personal impact statements from Christine Lee’s sister Julia and her daughter Stacey, in so far as they were read in court. It is clear that the murders of Christine and Lucy Lee have had a terrible and continuing impact on them and the other members of the family.
8. I will deal first with Count 3, possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life. The maximum sentence for this offence is life imprisonment. In the circumstances of this case I consider that the appropriate sentence is 10 years imprisonment and that sentence will be concurrent to the minimum terms which must be imposed for the two offences of murder in Counts 1 and 2.
Schedule 21 to the Criminal Justice Act 2003
9. Turning to Counts 1 and 2, there is only one sentence which the law permits me to pass upon you: that is a sentence of life imprisonment. I am required to specify the minimum term which you must serve before you can be considered for release on licence by the Parole Board.
10. In setting the minimum term I must have regard to the provisions of Schedule 21 to the Criminal Justice Act 2003, in particular paragraph 5. Where the court considers (as I do in the present case) that the seriousness of the offence (or the combination of the offence and one or more offences associated with it) is particularly high, the appropriate starting point in determining the minimum term is 30 years. As paragraph 5(2) makes clear, cases that would normally fall within the category whose seriousness is particularly high include:
(b) a murder involving the use of a firearm;
14. By virtue of paragraph 11 of Schedule 21, the mitigating factors which may be relevant in the present case include: (b) lack of pre-meditation; (d) the fact that the offender was provoked (for example by prolonged stress); and (g) the age of the offender.
17. I turn to the question of your age. In this context I have been referred to several decisions of the Court of Appeal: R v Walker  EWCA Crim 82; R v Archer  EWCA Crim 536; R v Symmons  EWCA Crim 1304; and R v Troughton  EWCA Crim 1520. I have also considered the recent decision in R v Sampford  EWCA Crim 1560.
18. It was common ground before me that the position was accurately summarised as follows at paragraph 15 of the judgment in Sampford: “…clearly age is a mitigating factor. It is a statutory mitigating factor, as is apparent from schedule 21 paragraph 11(g) of the Criminal Justice Act 2003. Advanced age will be relevant in a sentencing exercise such as the one facing [the Judge]. The schedule establishes that, as does Troughton and the other cases cited in Troughton. Neither Troughton nor any other case, nor the schedule, suggests that a court has to do what it can to ensure that a defendant does not die in prison. If nothing else, no court would be in a position to conduct the necessary actuarial exercise. Even if it were, it would not override the requirement of the sentencer to reflect the circumstances of the killing in setting the minimum term. If those circumstances require a minimum which may result in the offender dying in prison, then that will be the minimum term.”
Time spent on remand
[The defendant should now stand]
[The defendant can now be taken down]
26. I would also like to express my sympathies to the family of Christine Lee and Lucy Lee for their sad loss.