Clacton woman's killer has jail sentence increased

11 April 2019, 12:22 | Updated: 11 April 2019, 12:29

Jack Shepherd

The killer of a woman from Clacton-on-Sea has been jailed for an extra six months for going on the run to avoid justice.

Jack Shepherd was brought before the Old Bailey this morning, for the first time since he skipped bail ahead of his trial last summer over the death of Charlotte Brown in a speedboat accident.

The 31-year-old, who was extradited from Georgia, admitted breaching his bail and was jailed for six months on top of his six-year manslaughter sentence.

During the hearing, Shepherd came face to face with Ms Brown's parents Graham Brown and Roz Wickens, but avoided eye contact throughout.

Passing sentence, Judge Marks told Shepherd the case was "overwhelming, unanswerable".

In making a "conscious, deliberate and considered decision" to go on the run, he had "hugely added to the distress of Charlotte's family who could not have known when, if at all, you would be apprehended, you the person who had spent the last hours of her life with their beloved daughter and sister".

He said: "Your conduct in absenting yourself from justice for so long was as cowardly as it was selfish."

Judge Marks said Shepherd's absence from his trial interfered with the administration of justice.

He said: "A serious and highly unusual feature of the case was the fact that, although your lawyers were unaware of your whereabouts, you have provided them with a means of communicating with you, although I was not told of the mechanism as to how this worked.

"The effect of this was, as I gleaned during the trial, that notes of the entirety of the evidence were being sent to you on a frequent basis via the internet, were received from you about certain aspects of the case.

"In other words, you were in effect having your cake and eating it. This is not how our system of justice is intended to operate."

Judge Marks said Shepherd's decision to flee to Georgia rather than face justice had "greatly exacerbated" the feelings of Ms Brown's family who were already "distraught".

Speaking outside, Ms Brown's father said the family felt "a sense of relief".

He said: "Due to Shepherd's recklessness and negligence, Charlotte isn't here to defend herself.

"There is a sense of relief, finally, that we are going to get some justice for Charlotte.

"To us he has shown no remorse and he hasn't taken any responsibility for the dreadful actions he caused that night. Charlotte would still be here today if it wasn't for Shepherd."

Her tearful sister Katie said: "As a family, we are relieved that Jack Shepherd is now back in the country and commencing his prison sentence. It's a step closer to justice for Charlie.

"Shepherd has continued to prolong our agony, making wild accusations against our family.

"I feel throughout the whole process that he continues to be in denial of any kind of responsibility, as though he's almost convinced himself he's the victim."

Earlier in mitigation, Andrew McGee said Shepherd was "overwhelmed by his fear" of a prison sentence and wished to apologise to Ms Brown's family.

He said: "He was terrified by the prospect of a prison sentence and he remains terrified by that prospect.

"It was not deliberately callous or cavalier. It was not cynical or calculated."

The court heard that the defendant travelled to Georgia in March 2018 and was in phone contact with his lawyers on May 14 when he informed them he was unlikely to attend trial.

Shepherd, originally from Exeter, last appeared at the Old Bailey in November 2017 when he pleaded not guilty to manslaughter by gross negligence and was granted bail.

Last summer, he was found guilty in his absence of killing 24-year-old Ms Brown in a speedboat accident on the River Thames.

His trial was told that he was responsible for the speedboat, which had a series of serious defects, including to its steering.

Jurors heard that he and Ms Brown had been drinking champagne and went on a late-night high-speed jaunt in his boat past the Houses of Parliament on their first date.

Shepherd had handed the controls to Ms Brown just before it capsized, tipping both of them into the cold water, the court was told.

The defendant was plucked from the Thames alive, but his date was killed.

Jurors in the trial were only told that Shepherd was "not in the dock", rather than that he had failed to attend or gone on the run.

Shepherd has already launched an appeal against his conviction.