Life sentences are a punishment rarely given in the Oxford courts.

The punishment is reserved for the most serious criminals.

By law, anyone convicted of murder must be given a life sentence. Typically, they will be given a ‘tariff’ – the number of years they must serve behind bars before they can be released on parole.

Only the most serious murderers, usually serial killers, perverts or ideologically-driven terrorists, will receive a ‘whole life order’ meaning they will never be released.

Judges can impose discretionary life sentences for certain offences, like rape, robbery, attempted murder or perverting the course of justice, where the maximum sentence is life imprisonment.

We look back at the life sentences imposed at Oxford Crown Court over the last year and a half.

Scorned barrister made up harassment, rape and kidnap claims

Jilted lawyer Anisah Ahmed’s campaign of harassment earned her a life sentence in April.

She will find out later this week whether or not that life sentence will be lifted, as the Court of Appeal considers her case.

Judge Michael Gledhill QC imposed the hefty punishment for perverting the course of justice after detailing her ‘evil’ catalogue of offending.

Oxford Mail:

Anisah Ahmed's mugshot Picture: TVP

Following the break-down of a six-month affair with star of BBC docuseries The Barristers Iqbal Mohammed, Ahmed launched a harassment campaign.

It began with her setting up email accounts in her former lover’s name, which she used to bombard herself with messages in an effort to get him arrested for harassment.

When her lies were exposed, she falsely accused him of rape and, later, engineered a fake kidnapping and named Mr Mohammed as the culprit.

Her victim compared the experience to the plot line of Hollywood film Fatal Attraction, in which Glenn Close’s character becomes increasingly obsessed after a weekend fling.

He said: "I can’t put into words what it was like. I saw Fatal Attraction a couple of years ago but I couldn’t watch it because it was just like what happened to me, it was like the life that I lived.

"There was no enjoyment or entertainment in it because it was scary to see this sort of thing in a film because I had lived it. It started off as harassment which was frustrating and then it became really dangerous and dark and really scary, frightening.”

Ahmed’s case is expected to be heard by the Court of Appeal on Thursday.

READ MORE: Life sentence for 'scorned lawyer'

‘Frenzied attack on wife’

Builder Mark Lally stabbed his wife up to 11 times in a ‘frenzied’ attack.

The 51-year-old was found guilty last year of attempting to murder the woman at their Abingdon home in November 2019. He missed his victim’s spinal cord by 3mm.

Sentencing him to life imprisonment in August last year with a minimum tariff of 11 years’ imprisonment, Judge Peter Ross said: "It's by no means an accident that you selected the very largest and very sharpest of knives.

"You returned upstairs, you pushed your way into the bathroom mumbling something and almost immediately began this frenzied attack.

"It's a minor miracle that she was not left paralysed. You rained down the most savage of blows."

Almost a year later, in July 2021, the Court of Appeal overturned the life sentence imposed by Judge Ross.

But the effect of their decision to replace his 11 year tariff with a 24 year extended sentence – comprising 20 years’ imprisonment and an extended four years on licence – was to make Lally spend more time in jail. He’ll have to serve two-thirds of the 20 year jail time before he’s eligible for release.

READ MORE: Man who attempted to murder wife will now spend longer inside

Oxford Mail:

Mark Lally's mugshot Picture: TVP

The teen killers who tried to flee to Amsterdam

Teen killers Taison Cyrille and Brookton Lagan were handed life sentences in December for stabbing dad-of-three Darren MacCormick to death in January 2020.

The 19-year-olds were convicted of murder by jurors at Oxford Crown Court, with Judge Ian Pringle QC ordering they serve a minimum of 19 years behind bars before being released on licence.

Mr MacCormick died when he was stabbed through the lung during an argument in the early hours of January 9 last year. The argument had its origins in drug dealing.

Dad of three Mr MacCormick was staying with friend Robin Over at his home in Didcot.

Mr Over was apparently angry at not having been paid for acting as driver to drug dealer Lagan.

On January 8, Lagan went to Mr Over’s home, where they argued. The teen kicked a door and smashed a window on the way out – losing his temper after threats were made to his mum, he claimed.

In the early hours of the following morning, Mr MacCormick opened the front door to find Lagan, Cyrille and third man Isaac Boyland on the doorstep. Lagan was said to have hit Mr MacCormick in the face, although the youngster claimed the punch was thrown by someone standing behind him.

READ MORE: Didcot killers' appeal bid fails

Oxford Mail:

The murder scene following the stabbing Picture: NQ

Over the next hour, Mr MacCormick’s group – which included friends Matthew Ryman and Floyd Kennedy – were said to have made a number of calls to the aggressors in an attempt to ‘calm’ things down.

Just before 4am, Lagan, Cyrille and Mr Boyland returned – driven by Toby Hooper. In the fight that followed, Mr MacCormick was killed, Mr Ryman – who it was claimed was wielding a golf club – was stabbed in the thigh and Mr Kennedy was pulled from a car and struck in the head.

Lagan was said to have got back into the car and, according to driver Mr Hooper, told the two in the back words to the effect of: “What the f***ing hell are you playing at? What were you doing? You were not meant to go that deep.”

A knife attributed to Lagan had Mr MacCormick’s blood on it, although he claimed he’d not stabbed the man and it had got on the weapon by ‘secondary transfer’ from Cyrille’s clothing, which was ‘covered in blood’.

The killers were arrested on January 10 at Luton Airport as they tried to board a plane to Amsterdam.

An attempt to appeal their sentences failed in October.

Oxford Mail:

Brookton Lagan and Taison Cyrille's mugshots Picture: TVP

Convicted wife killer tried to murder woman

Stephen Allum already had a conviction for killing his wife when he tried to stab another woman to death in Oxford in January.

The 60-year-old received a hospital order in 1998 for fatally stabbing then wife Thelma at the family home.

On January 24 this year, Allum invited his 59-year-old victim into his home.

Oxford Mail:

Stephen Allum's mugshot Picture: TVP

Within seconds of asking her to go into the back garden, Allum pulled a knife from his jacket and began attacking his victim.

The assault – labelled ‘ferocious’ by the police – only stopped when the knife’s blade snapped in two. Allum tried to throttle the woman, who was stabbed in the chest and also suffered cuts to her face, nose and finger.

Judge Michael Gledhill QC imposed a life sentence last month, deciding that Allum would spend at least 17 years in jail before he is eligible for release on parole.

READ MORE: Life sentence for attempted murderer

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