Court of Appeal declines to increase jail sentence of man who choked lover to death during sex

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The Court of Appeal has declined to increase the sentence of a man who choked his lover to death during sex, finding the decision was not "unduly lenient".

Sam Pybus, who is married, was jailed for four years and eight months in September after he confessed to the manslaughter of mother-of-two Sophie Moss.

Lawyers representing the Attorney General's Office later argued that he should serve a longer sentence and asked three judges to consider the case in the Court of Appeal.

But, the Court of Appeal has declined to increase the sentence of Pybus, finding his sentence was not "unduly lenient".

Pybus, now aged 32, was drunk when he applied pressure to Ms Moss' neck for tens of seconds or even minutes at her flat in Darlington, County Durham, in February, Teeside Crown Court heard.

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He woke up and found Ms Moss naked and unresponsive but did not dial 999, waiting in his car for 15 minutes before driving to a police station to raise the alarm, the court heard.

A post-mortem examination revealed he had applied enough pressure to her neck for long enough to kill. There was no evidence of any other injuries or violence.

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The Crown Prosecution Service said there was not sufficient evidence to support a charge of murder as there was nothing to suggest he intended to kill her or cause serious harm.

Pybus, of Water View, Middleton St George, Darlington, told police he and Ms Moss had been in a casual relationship for three years, and that she encouraged him to strangle her during consensual sex.

The court heard that Ms Moss's long-term partner, who has not been named, said something similar.

Labour's Harriet Harman, chair of parliament's joint committee on human rights, had written to the attorney general to complain about what she described as an "unduly lenient" initial sentence.

She said: "This sentence fails to reflect the gravity of the crime, the impact of her death on her family including her two young children, his sole culpability for her death, his cynical shifting of the responsibility from himself to her and sends out the message that killing your girlfriend during sex is a minor matter."

Prior to the decision not to increase Pybus's sentence, the Centre for Women's Justice and the campaign group We Can't Consent To This had applied for permission to intervene in the case "to ensure the court has information on the latest understanding of the harms of strangulation, and the prevalence and understanding of strangulation within the context of domestic abuse".

Lady Justice Macur, Lady Justice Carr and Mr Justice Murray who heard the case, said: "Bearing all the circumstances of this case in mind, we are not persuaded that the judge was wrong in categorisation, was wrong in the uplift he applied… or was wrong in the element of discount that he gave for mitigation and then for his plea of guilty."

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