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Plymouth thug who slashed steward's face has life sentence quashed

By Plymouth Herald  |  Posted: December 23, 2013

  • Robert Kingcombe

  • Michael Knox

A Plymouth thug, jailed for viciously slashing the face of a working men's club steward with a knife, has convinced top judges to quash his potentially lifelong sentence.

Robert David Kingcombe, 39, of Foulston Avenue, launched into a drunken attack on Michael Knox at St Budeaux Working Men's Club, late one night in December, 2011.

Kingcombe was caged indefinitely for public protection - which is almost identical to a life sentence - at Plymouth Crown Court in May, 2012 after he pleaded guilty to wounding with intent and possession of a bladed article.

The drug-and-drink addict was ordered to remain behind bars until the Parole Board was satisfied he no longer posed a risk of serious harm to the public.

But top judges at London's Appeal Court today upheld a sentence challenge by Kingcombe, replacing his open-ended term with a 14-year four-month extended sentence, after ruling that the Crown Court judge "erred".

Judge John Milford QC said Kingcombe was drinking in the St Budeaux Working Men's Club - from which he had previously been barred for "aggressive behaviour" - late on December 18, 2011, when the attack occured.

After the club emptied, a row sparked, with Kingcombe pulling a knife from his pocket and slashing Mr Knox, 60, to the left side of his face, inflicting three "deep incisions", the appeal judge added.

Kingcombe had previous convictions for affray, wounding and wounding with intent - involving separate axe and carpet knife attacks - committed between 1995 and 2000, the court heard.

A probation officer, in a pre-sentence report, said that Kingcombe's risk of harm to others was "unpredictable", particularly when he was using alcohol or drugs. The Crown Court judge therefore found him to be a dangerous offender in the eyes of the law.

Judge Milford, sitting with Lord Justice Jackson and Mr Justice Holroyde, said the judge should have given Kingcombe a full discount for his guilty plea.

The choice between an extended sentence and a open-ended term was always a "difficult decision" in such cases, he added.

However, he told the court: "In this particular case, we are satisfied that the judge's finding fell on the wrong side of the dividing line and that the appropriate sentence should have been an extended sentence."

The open-ended sentence was quashed and replaced by an an extended sentence of 14 years and four months - comprising nine years and four months custody and the remainder on licence in the community.

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