Do you have a question about criminal law offences?


Life imprisonment for Robert Xie

In a trial that received heavy media coverage, Mr Robert Xie was found guilty of murdering five members of his family.  He has been sentenced to life imprisonment.

The court may only impose this maximum sentence (life sentence) if the court is convinced that “the level of culpability in the commission of the offence is so extreme that the community interest in retribution, punishment, community protection and deterrence can only be met through the imposition of that sentence”. This is of course the most serious penalty available in criminal law.

To impose a sentence of life imprisonment the Crown must also prove that the offense falls in a category of offenses that is so serious that it calls for the maximum sentence to be imposed.

After eight days of deliberation in his fourth trial, the jury was told that they could hand down a majority verdict, if they believed that they would not be able to reach a unanimous verdict. Mr Xie was found guilty by a majority verdict (eleven to one).  He has been on trail three times previously for the same crime – all three previous trials resulted in no verdict being reached.

After weighing up the evidence, and even though Mr Xie had no criminal record, the judge concluded that Mr Xie’s crime was indeed in the “worst case category” and that a life sentence was appropriate.

It was alleged, and it was evidently accepted by the jury, that Mr Xie viciously murdered five members of his family after he entered the family’s house. The victims were all in bed when they were killed. He used a “hammer-like” object to commit the crime. The victims’ clothes and the carpet were drenched with blood, according to the judge’s summary of the evidence. The court took into account that the crime was meticulously planned, and that two of the victims were children.  Given all the aggravating circumstances, the judge concluded that the crime falls in the category of worst cases and that a sentence of life imprisonment was appropriate. Mr Xie was sentenced accordingly.

Mr Xie may decide to appeal against the conviction, but it would be difficult to argue, in the circumstances of this case, that a lighter sentence would be appropriate.

Disclaimer : This article is just a summary of the subject matter being discussed and should not be regarded as a comprehensive legal advice for you to defend yourself alone. If you are charged with criminal offences, it is recommended that you seek legal assistance from criminal lawyers.

Ask a Question - It Is Free