A drug-dealer jailed for a knife crime which led to the death of a teenager has won his appeal to have his prison sentence reduced.
Samuel Morgan, 21, of Adelaide Road, Chichester, is serving a jail term over the death of 18-year-old Luke Jeffrey, who died of knife wounds following an argument over drugs in Chichester in March 2016.
Following a trial Morgan was cleared of both murder or manslaughter at Lewes Crown Court in August 2016.
He later admitted illegal possession of a knife in public, and also pleaded guilty to wounding Simon Wilmott in an earlier drug-related incident in April 2015, and was jailed for a total of six years in February 2017.
But yesterday (Thursday, February 7) Morgan’s term was cut by five months after Court of Appeal judges said he should have been given credit for admitting having the knife which killed Mr Jeffrey.
Lord Justice Irwin said Morgan’s guilty plea had come very late in the proceedings, but he still deserved credit for owning up.
“His plea wasn’t entered at the 11th hour but at one minute to midnight,” said the judge, sitting with Sir Kenneth Parker and Judge David Aubrey QC.
He added: “After very careful consideration, we conclude that there is force in the argument that a withholding of credit in this case was wrong in principle.”
During the trial over the death of Chichester college student Mr Jeffrey, Morgan gave evidence saying he took a kitchen knife with him to an alleyway off Lewis Street, Chichester, on March 11, 2016, where Mr Jeffrey and an associate of Morgan’s were arguing over a £20 drug payment.
He claimed in court that he only took the knife to threaten Mr Jeffrey and used it when the unarmed teenager came towards him.
Mr Jeffrey, from Linden Road, Bognor Regis, collapsed in a street nearby soon after and died the following morning in hospital of a knife wound to his side.
After being cleared of murder, Morgan was then due to stand trial over possession of the knife, but the day it was due to start changed his plea to guilty.
Morgan committed the offence while on bail over an attack on Mr Wilmott, who was seriously injured close to Chichester Festival Theatre on April 19, 2015.
The student was set upon with punches and kicks by Morgan while another man, Brandon Attwater, arrived and stabbed him.
Mr Wilmott required life-saving surgery and was in intensive care for three days.
Following a trial over that incident, Morgan was jailed for two years for unlawful wounding, on the basis that he claimed he had not known Attwater would bring a knife to the scene of the attack.
He was handed an additional four-year term at the same time for possessing the knife which killed Mr Jeffrey.
In passing sentence, the judge called it an ‘utterly senseless loss of a life’.
Attwater, who was 16 at the time, pleaded guilty to wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm and was sentenced at the same time to five years at a young offenders’ institute.
Yesterday in court, Morgan’s lawyers argued that the sentencing judge had been wrong not to give him credit for eventually pleading guilty to possessing the knife.
Even though his plea had come at 3pm on the day his trial was due to start, the judge was wrong not to reward him in some way for avoiding the need for the case to continue, they argued.
Allowing the appeal, Lord Justice Irwin said Morgan’s sentence would be reduced by five months so that he will serve a total of five years and seven months for his crimes.