‘Cultural Differences’ Reduces Sentence for Pakistani Couple Guilty of Beheading

January 9, 2014

Fazli Rahim. The judge said the murder was one of the worst he had ever dealt with.

A couple who sent a young girl to get “a bigger knife” before almost decapitating their victim have had their prison sentences cut by appeal judges.

Fazli Rahim, 42, and wife Saima Gul, 31, were jailed for life after being found guilty of the brutal murder of Mohammed Noor at a flat in Pollok, Glasgow.

Trial judge Michael O’Grady QC ordered both to serve a minimum of 23 years, telling the pair: “The punishment part of the sentence must reflect the terrible and cruel nature of your crime.”

The judge said the murder was one of the worst he had ever dealt with.

But at the Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh on Tuesday Lord Drummond Young ruled that the sentences were too severe and suggested that Judge O’Grady should have paid more attention to “cultural differences.”

Rahim has his sentence cut by four years and can now apply for parole after 19 years and Gul had her sentence slashed by six years and can apply after 17 years.

A trial last year heard how the events leading up to the death of Mr Noor on May 5, 2012 were shrouded in mystery and lies.

Judge O’Grady said: “Nobody will ever know the true reasons behind why Mohammed Noor died. Only one thing is certain. He would have died in pain and terror.”

A jury heard 22 days of evidence and speeches, then rejected Rahim’s claim that he was merely a spectator while Gul carried out the fatal hammer and knife attack.

They also rejected Gul’s story that Mr Noor had tried to rape her and her husband had intervened.

The bloody attack was witnessed by a 12-year-old girl. Giving evidence by CCTV link the terrified youngster described Mr Noor screaming in agony with Gul and Rahim on top of him.

She told how the two attackers sent her to the kitchen of the flat for a knife – then ordered her to get a bigger blade. She was also made to bring a hammer which was used to strike Mr Noor on the head.

Gul, from the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan was 16 when she went through an arranged marriage with Rahim.

She went to a police station the day before the murder to complain that Mr Noor had been harassing her and was keeping her child prisoner in his flat.

Officers escorted her home and told Mr Noor to stay away from her. Judge O’Grady said he was “extremely sceptical” about the claim that this had led to the fatal confrontation.

During the appeal hearing, lawyers for the murder duo protested that the trial judge had paid too much attention to factors which were irrelevant before deciding his harsh sentence.

Judge O’Grady said Gul showed no sign of remorse during the gruesome evidence.

But defence advocate Claire Mitchell said she had been told by her lawyers not to react. Ms Mitchell also argued that the jury’s guilty verdict did not mean the trial judge could reject everything Gul said about being abused by Mr Noor.

Defence QC Gordon Jackson said Rahim had no significant criminal record. He had been good friends with Mr Noor and it was not clear how much he knew about the relationship between his wife and his friend.

Judge O’Grady had not taken the background adequately into account, he said. Lord Drummond Young, sitting with Lord Philip, agreed that the trial judge had attached “excessive significance” to some factors.

The appeal judges said Rahim and Gul came from a society which was very different from Glasgow.

“We think some weight should be given to cultural factors,” said Lord Drummond Young.

There had also been a “highly unusual” relationship between the two and their victim but Judge O’Grady did not attach significant weight to this.

Lord Drummond Young continued: “We think the judge attached too much significance to the absence of reaction of the appellants during the trial.”