St Albans kidnapper appeal against life sentence rejected
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A thug jailed for life for his part in a St Albans kidnapping and police car chase, during which shots were fired at officers, has failed in a bid to convince top judges he is not “highly dangerous”.
Two men were sent to prison last year after kidnapping a 30-year-old man who had been walking along Hatfield Road, close to Homebase and the sports fields of Oakland College’s Smallford campus, in November 2013.
Clayton McKenzie was found guilty of kidnap, carrying a firearm with criminal intent, possessing a Class A drug, possessing a firearm and causing actual bodily harm to kidnap victim Adriatik Berisha.
The 37-year-old was jailed for life at St Albans Crown Court in May last year alongside his partner in crime, David Rhoden, 29, who was convicted of the same charges.
McKenzie was ordered to serve at least six years behind bars while Rhoden, who was also found guilty of making use of a firearm to resist arrest and possessing a firearm with intent to endanger life, was given a minimum term of 10 years.
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McKenzie, of Harlesden, yesterday (Thursday) challenged his life sentence at London’s Criminal Appeal Court, with his lawyers arguing he should not have been considered dangerous enough to receive the ultimate punishment.
They also said that, while the kidnap victim was hit with a pistol, it was not fired at him and he did not suffer any serious physical harm.
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But those complaints were thrown out by three senior judges, who said there was ample evidence that he posed a serious danger to the public.
The court heard the pair kidnapped Mr Berisha in St Albans, bundling him into the back of the silver Peugeot being driven by McKenzie.
Police officers spotted the car and tried to stop it, but McKenzie drove onto the M1 before abandoning the Peugeot in Edgware.
Rhoden, of Neasden, fired at least five shots at an officer who chased him.
A search of the area around the abandoned car uncovered a Webley revolver, a Colt pistol and cocaine with a street value of about £20,000.
The crown court judge described the pair as “extremely dangerous” and found that they were involved in a “substantial drug-dealing enterprise”.
Challenging his life sentence, McKenzie’s lawyers argued it was not the right punishment for a man with no previous convictions and said the judge did not have enough evidence to make the finding he did about his level of involvement in drug dealing.
But, dismissing the appeal, Mrs Justice Swift said the sentence was entirely appropriate given the serious and violent nature of the crimes.
Sitting with Lord Justice Beatson and Mr Justice Globe, she added: “Given the appellant’s involvement in a violent kidnap, during which a loaded pistol was used, it is difficult to see how it can be said that the judge was wrong to find the appellant was dangerous.
“We do not consider that what the judge did was wrong in principle, or that the life sentence he imposed was manifestly excessive.”