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Kidnapping, False imprisonment

Date produced: 14 March 2013

Title: Offences against the person

Offence: Kidnapping - False Imprisonment

Legislation: Common law

Mode of Trial: Indictable only

Statutory Limitations & Maximum Penalty: At large

Sentencing Range: Serious specified violent offences

Aggravating & Mitigating Factors

Aggravating features include:

  • victim degree of planning or premeditation
  • number of perpetrators
  • vulnerability of victim
  • duration of loss of liberty
  • using, brandishing, threatening with or possession of weapons
  • other offence(s) committed
  • sophisticated concealment
  • unpleasant circumstances of detention, such as degradation
  • effect upon victim
  • effect upon persons other than the person kidnapped, particularly family
  • other offence(s) committed
  • sinister motive, such as terrorist background
  • any ransom involved
  • threats intended to discourage victim from reporting the offence

The more common mitigating features are:

  • absence of the above features
  • offence at the bottom end of the scale, as described in R v Spence and Thomas (see below)

Relevant Sentencing Guidelines

Guideline case R v Spence and Thomas (1983) 5 Cr.App.R.(S.) 413 
There is a wide possible variation in seriousness between one instance of kidnapping and another.  At the top of the scale comes the carefully planned abductions where the victim is used as a hostage or where ransom money is demanded.  Such offences will seldom be met with less than 8 years' imprisonment or thereabouts.  Where violence or firearms are used, there are other exacerbating features such as detention of the victim over a long period of time, then the proper sentence will be very much longer than that.  At the other end of the scale are those offences which can perhaps scarcely be classed as kidnapping at all.  They very often rise as a sequel to family tiffs or lovers' disputes, and seldom require anything more than 18 months' imprisonment, and sometimes a great deal less. 

Relevant Sentencing Case Law

R v Dzokamshure [2009] 1 Cr. App. R. (S.) 112
Appellant's relationship with a woman for six months had ended.  Months later he went to her home, broke his way in, punched her, dragged her out and forced her into her car. Another man was seated therein. The appellant drove the car on the motorway and prevented her from answering a call on her mobile phone. Eventually he stopped on a slip road and allowed her to get out.  Previous good character.  Guilty plea.  The victim had indicated that that she did not want him to serve a custodial sentence and was unwilling to give evidence.  Sentence of 18 months' imprisonment upheld.

R v Shah and Khan [2009] 2 Cr. App. R. (S.) 103
The victim, a woman, was working as a prostitute. In response to a phone call she went to an address where she had consensual sex with Shah. When she got up to leave, he pushed her onto a bed.  Khan entered the room, sat on her stomach, made sexual threats to her and assaulted her.  When she tried to escape through a window, he dragged her back by her hair and her phone was snatched. She was crying and Khan punched her again.  He had taken a more prominent role and had relevant previous convictions.  Convicted of false imprisonment. Several previous decisions cited.  Sentences of 3 and a half years' imprisonment (Shah) and 4 and a half years' imprisonment (Khan) upheld.

R v Xiao Bo Yan and Sin Jung Lin [2010] 2 Cr. App. R. (S.) 25
Sentences of 11 and a half and 11 years' imprisonment upheld for false imprisonment and kidnapping.  A group of men kidnapped and detained a university student.  Details included their entering the house where he and other students were living, threatening him with guns and making him transfer £14,000 from his bank account to his current account by an online transaction.  The appellants pleaded guilty to having an imitation firearm with intent, false imprisonment, blackmail, robbery and kidnap.  The Court of Appeal considered other decisions upholding or reducing sentences to a range of 10 to 13 years. 

R. v Stephens and others [2011] 1 Cr. App. R. (S.) 5
Businessman bundled into a car, shown a handgun, a blanket was put over his head, told that he would be killed if he did not co-operate, punched and wrists tied, driven to another city, taken into three flats in succession and detained for over 48 hours.  £1.5 million was transferred by the victim's family to an account which the kidnappers were unable to access. They released the victim, who was told that they knew where he lived and that they would kill him and/or his family if he went to the police. Guilty pleas to conspiracy to kidnap, conspiracy falsely to imprison and conspiracy to blackmail.  Sentences from 12 years to eight years imprisonment upheld.

R v Rusha and Bucpapa [2011] 2 Cr. App.R. (S.) 20
Appellants convicted of conspiracy to kidnap, conspiracy to rob and conspiracy to possess a firearm.  Manager of a security depot and his family kidnapped.  14 members of the night staff held captive by men wearing balaclavas and holding firearms.  Depot raided and £53 million stolen.  Both sentenced to imprisonment for public protection with a minimum term of 15 years.  Appeal of one dismissed and sentence of the other (who had no convictions) varied to 30 years' imprisonment.

R v Syed Ahmed and others [2011] 2 Cr.App.R. (S.) 35
16-year old schoolboy kidnapped on his way home one evening, bundled into van, driven away, taken to a house, bag placed over his head, his phone used to call his brother and money demanded, threat made to cut off a finger, trousers removed, scalding water poured over his legs, leg burnt with hot iron, driven around in the van. Back at the house, knife held to his throat, victim made to phone his brother and tell him that they were going to kill him and that they wanted £20,000.  Police became aware.  Victim held for just over 5 hours.  Offences apparently committed to recover or enforce a drugs debt.  Sentences on the two appellants who had pleaded guilty pleas to conspiracy to kidnap and conspiracy to blackmail reduced to 10 and a half and 9 and a half years imprisonment.

R v Saker [2012] 1 Cr.App.R. (S.) 16
Appellant discovered that her 18-year-old daughter was taking drugs and that property had gone missing.  Her daughter told her that she had been obtaining drugs from an older man, who was putting her under pressure to give him sexual favours in exchange for drugs.  The appellant and the victim's former boyfriend tied up the victim and detained her in her room for about 25 minutes. The appellant encouraged her co-defendant to hurt the victim. Appellant, of previous good character, pleaded guilty to false imprisonment.  Sentence of 12 months imprisonment upheld.    

R v Yu Hang and others [2012] 1 Cr.App.R. (S.) 91
The appellants became friendly with a Chinese student who was maintained generously by his parents.  He was persuaded to travel, met by one of the appellants, and taken to a house.  Whilst asleep, his hands and feet were tied and put tissue in his mouth. He was threatened with a knife, tied to a chair and interrogated about his parents.  A ransom demand and later instructions as to payment were communicated to his parents. The victim was detained for about six days, during which he was beaten, burnt with cigarette butts, and deprived of water.  Police raided the property.  Appellants pleaded guilty to conspiracy to kidnap and conspiracy to blackmail.  Sentences reduced to 12 years imprisonment.

Vaz [2012] 2 Cr.App.R. (S.) 80
A gang entered the home of an employee of a cash and carry business wearing dark boiler suits, gloves and balaclavas and in possession of two handguns, a knife and CS spray.  The employee, his wife, two daughters and two sons were tied up with cables and pillowcases were placed over their heads.  At one point the gas taps were turned on and the employee was told the house would be blown up if he did not assist them in opening the safe.  The appellant remained in the home guarding members of the employee's family, keeping in touch with the robbers through a walkie-talkie, whilst the employee was driven to the store.  The robbers persisted in their attempt to obtain money but finally ran off empty handed.  The appellant, of previous good character, pleaded guilty to five counts of false imprisonment and one count of attempted robbery.  Sentence of 9 and a half years imprisonment upheld.

SB [2012] 2 Cr.App.R. (S.) 71  
The appellant abducted his 5-year-old son, who was living with his mother pursuant to a court order following their divorce.  He and a friend equipped themselves with a car seat to bring the child back, and a wig, work jacket and sunglasses for disguise while reconnaissance was carried out to find a suitable place to snatch the boy.  They discovered where the child was at school.  The appellant snatched the child as his mother was taking him home with a pram or buggy containing another child.  The boy was returned to his mother after 3 or 4 hours.  Appellant, a man of good character, pleaded guilty to kidnapping.  Sentence of 16 months imprisonment upheld.

Recent Decisions reported in CSP at B 3-4.3 covering kidnapping and false imprisonment as follows:

  • unplanned kidnapping or hostage taking - see B3-4.3A
  • kidnapping with view to ransom demand - see B3-4.3B
  • kidnapping with view to forcing women into prostitution - see B3-4.3C
  • kidnapping arising out of emotional relationship - see B3-4.3D
  • kidnapping for revenge or to inflict punishment - see B3-4.3DD
  • kidnapping for political purpose - see B3-4.3E

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