Mother of murdered son slams new proposals

Murdered: Shakilus Townsend son of Nicola Syer

A Lewisham woman, whose son was murdered by a gang in Croydon, has condemned a Government proposal that could see offenders spending less time behind bars.

At a protest outside the Ministry of Justice in Westminster, central London, members of Mothers Against Murder and Aggression (MAMAA) voiced their opposition to the Government’s plans to change the sentencing procedure for murderers.

Nicola Dyer, 35 from Lewisham, said the current justice system had not handed out appropriate sentences to the seven people convicted of her son’s murder. Ms Dyer’s son, Shakilus Townsend, 16, was killed by a gang after being lured by a woman into a quiet cul-de-sac in Thornton Heath, Croydon, in 2008.

Karen Austin, 45 from west London, whose son Darcy was shot outside Wandsworth Prison in May last year, said she could not “even begin to accept” anything that might reduce sentences for murder.

She said: “Darcy’s death destroyed our lives and destroyed our family. As far as I’m concerned life should mean life but we don’t really have that in this country. But 30 years at least would give me the comfort that these people are off the streets.”

The proposal put forward by justice secretary Ken Clarke would scrap the fixed starting points of 15 and 30 years and a whole life term for parole for different types of murder.

Instead, judges would be given more discretion over the length of a killer’s prison sentence, in what Mr Clarke calls a “simpler, more sensible” approach which “leaves the judge to do the justice in the individual case.”

Three people will stand trial next year for the killing.

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