A 25-year-old who stabbed his bedbound grandfather to death has been sentenced to ten years in prison in the country’s first ever televised court sentencing.
Ben Oliver killed his grandfather David, after learning the 74-year-old had been accused of historic sexual abuse, in Mottingham, south London in January 2021. He admitted manslaughter due to diminished responsibility and was cleared of murder by jurors at the Old Bailey.
Prosecution lawyer, Louis Mably QC, described the attack at the trial, saying: “He had been repeatedly stabbed and slashed with a knife in the face, and in particular in the neck. It was a brutal attack, plainly carried out with the intention of killing him.”
Judge Sarah Munro was filmed as she read out her sentencing remarks in a first for the courts. Her comments were broadcast on a 10-second long lag so that the live feed could be halted if there was a disruption. She sentenced Ben Oliver to life with a minimum of 10 years and eight months, although due to the time Oliver has already spent in jail this was reduced to nine years.
She told the court that Ben Oliver had found “out about the allegations of sexual abuse against your grandfather”
“Covid hit you very hard, you became obsessive about catching the virus and behaved in very extreme ways,” she said. “Your mental health deteriorated as a result because you were isolated and separated from your grandmother.”
She told the court that Ben Oliver had an autistic spectrum disorder and had asked his grandmother to help him commit suicide after his mental health worsened over lockdown. “Your mother told you that she would not have peace until your grandfather was dead, you also knew how unhappy he had made your grandmother,” Judge Munro added.
She said that there were 21 stab wounds to David Oliver’s face after his grandson’s attack, including to his eyes and mouth. “You did not think that there was an alternative to killing your granddad,” Judge Munro said, adding that Ben Oliver couldn’t see the bigger picture or understand the consequences of his actions because of his autism diagnosis.
“There was ample evidence that you had tried to seek help for your mental health problems and done well while on licence. It is unfortunate that the professionals did not identify the risk posed by you remaining within the community and particularly by placing you with your grandparents,” the judge told Oliver.
The camera, which was positioned at the back of the court, was not allowed to film the defendant, victims, witnesses, jurors, barristers, staff or the public gallery.
Ahead of the sentencing, deputy prime minister Dominic Raab said: “Opening up the courtroom to cameras to film the sentencing of some of the country’s most serious offenders will improve transparency and reinforce confidence in the justice system.
“The public will now be able to see justice handed down, helping them understand better the complex decisions judges make.”
The televised sentencing hearing follows the success of broadcasting the Supreme Court, which gets 20,000 views on its live stream each month.