Valdo Calocane: did he get away with murder?

by TheEditor

Categories: Diagnosis, Investigative, Law, Mental Health, Reporting

The recent events on the sentencing of Valdo Calocane have led to public outcries. Mr Coates’ son James (a victim) said that Calocane had “made a mockery of the system“, adding that “he has got away with murder“.

I have no relationship to the victims, their families, Calocane or the legal proceedings. This exploration will go into the events, construct a timeline (that may be updated) and look into the medicolegal issues. The details on the partial defence of diminished responsibility are in the post of 27/01/2024. The concept is difficult for most people to understand. It was explained on this site in the post Diminished Responsibility – the new law in July 2012.

Case summary (bare bones)

Index offences

Valdo Calocane, suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, was involved in a series of violent attacks in Nottingham on June 13, 2023. He fatally stabbed Barnaby Webber, Grace O’Malley-Kumar, and caretaker Ian Coates. Additionally, he attempted to murder three others – Wayne Birkett, Marcin Gawronski, and Sharon Miller – using a van to run them over. These actions were influenced by his mental health condition, leading him to believe he was acting under the command of voices in his head. Calocane was later charged with three counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder. In November 2023, he pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility and attempted murder. The Crown Prosecution Service accepted his plea after considering expert psychiatric evaluations, concluding that there was no realistic prospect of a murder conviction. Calocane was sentenced to detention in a high-security hospital under a hospital order with restrictions. Full details at the CPS.

Aftermath

Calocane was arrested but due to his mental illness, pleaded guilty to manslaughter, claiming the voices in his head controlled him. The families of the victims felt this wasn’t justice, arguing he should be held fully responsible. Police also admitted they could have done more to stop him, as they’d had previous contact and a warrant out for his arrest.

Doctors confirmed Calocane’s actions were heavily influenced by his psychosis, but that he still believed the voices were real and did not think he’s mentally ill. He was ultimately sentenced to a secure hospital with strict limitations due to the risk he posed to the public.

See Nottinghamshire Police timeline (25/01/2024)

Sentencing remarks by the Judge

This tragedy raises questions about mental health support, legal accountability for those with illness, and missed opportunities to prevent such violence. It serves as a stark reminder of the devastating impact of mental illness and the complex challenges it presents.

Timeline of events (may be updated)
DateEventDescription
2019Mental disorder symptomsCalocane begins experiencing symptoms of mental illness.
2020Hospital treatmentCalocane admitted to inpatient hospital treatment for his mental illness.
2020Psychosis onsetCalocane starts hearing voices and develops persecutory delusions.
Sep 2021Police assaultCalocane assaults a police officer trying to assess his mental health.
Aug 2022DisappearanceCalocane disappears from his address and disengages from mental health team.
May 2023Warehouse attackCalocane physically attacks two colleagues and loses his job.
13 Jun 2023Stabbings (Nottingham)Calocane fatally stabs two people and attempts to attack others.
13 Jun 2023Van attackCalocane deliberately hits a pedestrian with his van and tries to run over others.
13 Jun 2023ApprehensionPolice apprehend Calocane after he drops a knife after being tasered.
23 Jun 2023Diminished responsibilityDr McSweeney reports psychosis significantly impaired Calocane’s control.
1 Aug 2023Police admissionNottinghamshire Police admitted they “should have done more” to stop Calocane.
01 Nov 2023Ashworth transferCalocane transferred from prison to Ashworth High Security Hospital.
19 Nov 2023Psychosis conclusionDr Shafiulha concludes Calocane’s actions likely due to psychosis.
20 Nov 2023Partial responsibilityProfessor Blackwood reports Calocane retained some responsibility but psychosis impacted him.
12 Dec 2023Diminished responsibilityDr Latham agrees with the conclusion of diminished responsibility due to psychosis.
12 Jan 2024Illness confirmationDr Mirvis confirms Calocane’s offences highly attributable to his illness.
28 Jan 2024Guilty pleaCalocane pleads guilty to three counts of manslaughter and three of attempted murder.
28 Jan 2024Hospital orderCourt sentences Calocane to a hospital order with a restriction order due to public safety risk.

The legal situation

The key issue here is the application of the partial defence of diminished responsibility in Calocane’s case. It is important to approach this objectively and understand that the law operates based on established principles, even in tragic situations like this.

Availability of Diminished Responsibility

  • The English legal system allows defendants to plead diminished responsibility if their mental state at the time of the offence substantially impaired their ability to understand the nature of their conduct, form a rational judgment, or exercise self-control.
  • Based on several expert psychiatric reports, Calocane met the criteria for diminished responsibility due to his diagnosed paranoid schizophrenia.
  • Therefore, it was within his legal rights and in accordance with established principles to claim this defence.

Equal Application of the Law

  • The principle of equality before the law dictates that everyone, regardless of their circumstances, should be treated equally under the law.
  • This applies to both the prosecution and the defence, meaning both parties have access to the same legal avenues and procedures.
  • Therefore, if Calocane met the criteria for diminished responsibility, it was only fair and lawful for his plea to be considered and accepted.

Alternatives and Criticisms

Some might argue that the diminished responsibility defence should be abolished or reformed, perhaps for cases of violent crimes like Calocane’s.

Such changes raise complex ethical and legal questions about balancing accountability with mental illness considerations.

Ultimately, revisiting legal principles like diminished responsibility is a separate discussion from Calocane’s specific case, which was handled within the existing legal framework.

Reflection

Whilst I acknowledge that the application of diminished responsibility may not bring solace to the victims’ families, it is a reflection of the legal system’s attempt to grapple with the complexities of mental illness and culpability. Focusing on the legal and philosophical aspects of the case can encourage deeper discussion about such challenges without getting bogged down in individual emotions

There is no logical reason to think that Calocane ‘got away with murder’.


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