Failure to Suspend a Prison Sentence Leads to Community Order on Appeal

R v SS [2014] EWCA Crim 289

The Appellant, SS, had originally been sentenced to 4 months' imprisonment for possession of cannabis with intent to supply.  He was a low-level street dealer who was essentially seeking to fund his own habit by selling cannabis from a friend's flat.  The Honorary Recorder of Luton declined to suspend the sentence despite significant mitigation: amongst other factors, the Appellant was aged 19, had no previous convictions, and at the time of the offence had had a chaotic lifestyle, but had since secured full-time employment working six days a week.

The Appellant particularly feared the loss of his employment as a result of an immediate custodial sentence.  On appeal, he was also concerned about the length of time for which he would need to disclose his criminal record and how this would affect his future prospects. 

At an expedited hearing, the Court readily agreed that the sentence ought to have been suspended but was further persuaded that in failing to suspend at the outset, the Appellant had lost the opportunity to keep his liberty by complying with Probation.  Therefore, replacing the original sentence with a suspended term of custody was no longer a just outcome.  In the circumstances, it was deemed appropriate to recognise this by imposing a community order instead.  Under new legislation, his conviction will now be spent in a year.

The Appellant was represented by Alex Chakmakjian.