Pearson family members ask Attorney General to consider unduly lenient sentences passed on Bolland, Worral and Brierley

Landmark legal ruling changes the way professional bodies deal with their members

Members of the family of Michelle Pearson are asking the Attorney General to consider whether the sentences passed on Zac Bolland, David Worrall and Courtney Brierley were unduly lenient following their conviction at a second trial and sentence on 21 April 2021 relating to her death. They have also launched a petition: Changing the Sentence's for Michelle Pearson's Death

Following a first trial in May 2018 (1st trial): Zak Bolland was convicted of the murders of Demi, Brandon, Lacie and Lia Pearson and attempted murder of Michelle Pearson, Kyle Pearson and Bobby Harris. He received a life sentence with a minimum term of 40 years less time on remand and a sentence of 25 years to run concurrently for each attempt murder.

David Worrall was convicted of the murders of Demi, Brandon, Lacie and Lia Pearson and GBH with intent of Michelle Pearson, Kyle Pearson and Bobby Harris. He received a life sentence with a minimum term of 37 years less time spent on remand and a sentence of 19 years to run concurrently for the three offences of grievous bodily harm with intent.

Courtney Brierley was convicted of the manslaughters of Demi, Brandon, Lacie and Lia Pearson and received a sentence of 21 years for each to run together. Under the release provisions, she will serve half of the sentences in prison before automatic release.

Michelle survived the arson attack with extensive injuries and fought devastation at learning of her children’s deaths alongside the unimaginable physical and mental agony of her injuries for 20 months before passing away on 25 August 2019.

Brierley pleaded guilty to a further charge of manslaughter following Michelle’s death whilst Bolland and Worrall pleaded not guilty to murder, forcing the family to sit through another court case in which the extent of Michelle’s injuries and suffering were again extrapolated.

Zak Bolland was convicted of Michelle’s murder and sentenced to life with a further minimum term of 40 years to run from the date of sentence.

David Worrall was also convicted of Michele’s murder and sentenced to life imprisonment with a further minimum term of 37 years to run from the date of sentence.

Courtney Brierley was sentenced to a concurrent term of 10 years imprisonment following her guilty plea. In effect this means she will serve an approximate 8 months extra on the previous sentences.

In effect, the family are concerned that Bolland and Worrall have had their original sentences restarted for the murder of Michelle and will now have an extra three years before their release can be considered by the Parole Board. Brierley has had an extra 8 months added to her original sentence.

A member of the family commented:

“The Judge recognised in her sentencing comments that Michelle experienced 'unimaginable suffering' after the fire, both physical pain and 'appalling grief’. “She lost any desire to go on

living," she says, she 'experienced pain and distress which cannot be adequately described or even imagined'.

“These sentences do not reflect on the gravity of the heinous acts that caused the death of five people. A loving mum and her four children.

“An additional 8 months for a fifth manslaughter and 3 years punishment for a fifth murder is not much of a deterrent to anyone who wishes to commit murder/manslaughter if these are the lenient sentences that are being given by the courts.

“We feel like this is an insult to our family and we feel like Michelle’s life wasn’t worthy of a sentence. The 20 months of fighting for her life and the unimaginable pain she endured until she succumbed to her injuries was for nothing. Where is the justice for the victims and their family?”

The case has already been referred to the Attorney General (AG) by a member of the public and it is understood that the AG will look at the circumstances of the case and determine whether the Court of Appeal should be asked to consider whether the sentences were not just lenient but unduly lenient.

This has been described as '… where it falls outside the range of sentences which the judge, applying [their] mind to all the relevant factors, could reasonably consider appropriate. In that connection, regard must of course be had to reported cases and in particular to the guidance given by [the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division)] from time to time in the so-called guideline cases.' (Attorney General's Reference No 4 of 1989 11 Cr. App. R. (S) 517)

Mike Pemberton, a partner at national law firm Stephensons Solicitors LLP who is acting for members of the family in respect of Inquest proceedings and matters arising from the arson attack on Jackson Street commented:

“The family are concerned that the sentences which were passed were unduly lenient and the fact that members of the public have already asked the Attorney General to look at the case reflects they are not alone in this feeling. The power to refer a case to the Court of Appeal and then, the court to subsequently order an increase in a sentence is considered to be fairly exceptional, but this was an exceptionally tragic case. One in which the family do not feel justice has been done.”

A petition to the Attorney General has been launched by the family: Changing the Sentence's for Michelle Pearson's Death