Two men jailed for the manslaughter of a teenager who drowned after they forced him to go for a “punishment swim” in a water-filled claypit in Bilston have had their sentences increased by the Court of Appeal.
Three judges in London agreed with the Attorney General Baroness Scotland that the original five-and-a-half year terms imposed on Christopher Lewis, 23, and Marvin Walker, 21, for killing Shane Owoo were “unduly lenient” – and added two years in each case.
Sir Igor Judge, sitting with Mr Justice Simon and Mr Justice Akenhead, emphasised that there needed to be deterrence “against this kind of bullying behaviour with its unwanted and sometimes unanticipated disastrous consequences”.
After assaulting their 16-year-old victim, Lewis and Walker “frog-marched” him to the claypit at Barn Farm Close in Bilston following a dispute about a bike.
The pair, both from Wolverhampton, pleaded guilty to manslaughter at a hearing at Birmingham Crown Court in April.
During the incident on September 29 last year they ordered Shane into Lunt Pool and prevented him from getting out when he got into difficulty.
Increasing the sentences, Sir Igor said: “The submission on behalf of the offenders is that their conduct merited punishment, but that the sentence imposed by the judge was not unduly lenient. It was suggested that the sentence was a proper reflection of the offenders’ criminality.”
He said: “The death of Shane was not intended by the offenders. They expected that eventually he would emerge from the water. They were not charged with, let alone convicted of, murder but on any view this was manslaughter consequent on a combination of persistent, violent, bullying conduct and total recklessness.”
Sir Igor added: “This was not some form of horseplay or approaching anything like the beginning of what might be described as horseplay.”
The judge said it was accepted that Lewis and Walker were “genuinely sorry and remorseful for what had happened and in particular that both had some insight into the suffering they had inflicted on the young man Shane’s family”.
The fact that Lewis had dived into the water in an attempt to save the teenager, “albeit much too late”, was also taken into account. That action was “to his credit”.
But Sir Igor said the court had concluded that the sentence imposed on them should be quashed and that “a sentence of seven-and-a-half years imprisonment should be substituted”.