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15 September 2016

Court Sentences Ahmed Noor For Manslaughter Of Mohsin Bhatti

Summary of Sentencing Remarks

Madam Justice McBride, sitting today in Belfast Crown Court, sentenced Ahmed Noor to an indeterminate custodial sentence for the manslaughter of Mohsin Bhatti, and ordered that he must serve a minimum term of six years before he can be considered by the Parole Commissioners for release on licence.

Factual Background

Mr Bhatti was a 29 year old Pakistani national living in Belfast. He died on 29 January 2015 as a result of multiple stab wounds inflicted by Ahmed Noor (“the defendant”). The defendant was originally charged with murder and possession of offensive weapons, namely two knives, with intent to commit murder. On the morning of his trial he pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility. In light of the agreed medical evidence the prosecution accepted the plea. The second charge in relation to the knives was left on the books.

The defendant said that on 28 January 2015 he was smoking cannabis throughout the day. He continued to smoke cannabis until 4.00am on 29 January 2015. About 20 minutes before the offence occurred, he said he got the idea to kill Mr Bhatti and voices told him to do this. About 10 minutes before the killing he took a knife from his cousin’s kitchen and walked to the deceased’s home, which was five minutes away. He broke into Mr Bhatti’s home and a struggle ensued between the two men. The deceased ran out of his home and was pursued by the defendant. The defendant caught up with him in Botanic Avenue and repeatedly stabbed him until he died. The defendant remained at the scene until police arrived. They noted that the defendant’s hands were covered in blood and found two knives lying beside the deceased’s body. The cause of death was found to be multiple stab wounds to the chest and abdomen.

The defendant was arrested at the scene. Due to injuries he had sustained the defendant was taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital. On route to the hospital he made a number of unsolicited comments while under caution. He said “This is the happiest day of my life. I can properly go to sleep now.” Later he said “I am the King….He was my enemy…. I was sent to kill him and I have done it now.” On route to the custody suite he again made a number of unsolicited comments, including: “I have just murdered a man and I don’t feel guilty.”. Before interview the defendant was medically assessed and following this he was detained under the Mental Health Order. On 4 February 2015 the defendant was released back to police custody and charged with the murder of Moshin Bhatti. He made no reply after charge.

The court received reports from two consultant forensic psychiatrists, which stated that the defendant, who is now 33 years old, was born in Somalia but his family left there when he was eight years old due to the civil war and went to live in London. In 2012 he came to Northern Ireland. He found employment in a restaurant, and he remained in employment until shortly before this offence. The defendant reported that he had been consuming cannabis daily for five or more years before the offence and he craved cannabis despite its negative effects on him such as paranoia. Since 2003 he reported a number of episodes when he heard voices. He described paranoid delusion for example believing that he was “the king”, and two days before the offence he believed the deceased was the devil and he thought that by killing him he was going to become the king. Both forensic psychiatrists agree that at the time of the killing the defendant was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia which substantially impaired his ability to form a rational judgement and to exercise self-control.

Sentencing

Madam Justice McBride considered a victim impact statement submitted on behalf of the victim’s family by the deceased’s brother in law, together with statements made by friends. The deceased was born and lived in Pakistan until approximately five years ago when he came to live in Northern Ireland. The deceased had a number of friends in Northern Ireland in the migrant community, and he was respected by them. The Judge noted that the statements indicated that the deceased was a quiet, gentle, hospitable and friendly man who got on with others. Mr Bhatti’s death has had a profound impact on his family causing them upset and trauma. The Judge referred to the victim impact statement in her sentencing remarks:

This moving and well-expressed statement brings home starkly the far-reaching consequences for the family of this unprovoked brutal killing of their vulnerable son and brother.”

Sentencing options

The offence of manslaughter comes within the provisions of the Criminal Justice (Northern Ireland) Order 2008 (“the 2008 Order”). It is a “specified offence” and a “serious offence”, and accordingly the court has to decide whether there is a significant risk to members of the public of serious harm occasioned by the commission by the offender of further specified offences.

In his report on the defendant, one of the consultant forensic psychologists, considered the issue of dangerousness and concluded:

I would therefore submit that Mr Noor has demonstrated the capacity to cause serious harm and taken with his paranoid schizophrenia, the propensity to carry or use weapons, severe mental illness and cannabis dependence, I would submit that the likelihood of future offences causing serious harm is more than a mere possibility.”

Similarly the consultant forensic psychologist in his report on the defendant concluded:

“Mr Noor poses a substantial likelihood of serious physical harm in the future and that this relates particularly to the risks of his abusing cannabis and not complying with mental health services and other supports leading to acute relapse of his illness with attendant risk of harm, particularly to others.”

In relation to the risk of serious harm, the Probation Board concluded that Mr Noor fulfilled their criteria for representing a significant risk of serious harm. Based on all the information about the nature and circumstances of the offence and the information contained within the medical reports and the pre-sentencing report, the Judge considered that the defendant is dangerous, under the provisions of Article 13(1)(b) of the Criminal Justice (Northern Ireland) Order 2008.

When a defendant is convicted of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility, there are a number of sentencing options open to the court. These include: a determinate sentence; a discretionary life sentence; an indeterminate custodial sentence; an extended custodial sentence; or a Hospital Order. The Judge considered these options and concluded that the appropriate disposal is an indeterminate custodial sentence. Madam Justice McBride said:

“There is no doubt that this was a truly horrific offence. It was an unprovoked, violent and sustained attack on a vulnerable individual which resulted in his death….The medical evidence however provides an explanation as to why the defendant acted as he did before, during and after the offence.”

The Judge said that in these circumstances, it appears that the defendant had no knowledge he may be violent whilst under the influence of cannabis, and there is no known history of the defendant being violent whilst under the influence of cannabis, prior to this offence.

The Judge then considered the tariff to be imposed. The Judge said that the tariff which is imposed reflects “my assessment of the defendant’s culpability and my assessment of what period is appropriate to protect the public and to reflect the public abhorrence that this offence was committed.”

The Judge imposed an indeterminate custodial sentence with a minimum period of six years, and said his time on remand should count towards that period. The Judge emphasised that this means that the defendant will serve the full six years before he is eligible to be considered for release by the Parole Commissioners and then he will only be released when the Parole Commissioners are satisfied that it is appropriate to release the defendant having regard to the need to ensure the safety of the public.

NOTES TO EDITORS

  1. This summary should be read together with the judgment and should not be read in isolation. Nothing said in this summary adds to or amends the judgment. The full judgment will be available on the Court Service website (www.courtsni.gov.uk).

ENDS

If you have any further enquiries about this or other court related matters please contact:

Alison Houston

Lord Chief Justice’s Office

Royal Courts of Justice

Chichester Street

BELFAST

BT1 3JF

Telephone: 028 9072 5921

E-mail:

Alison.Houston@courtsni.gov.uk