Sedgefield MP calls for review over length of jail term of Darlington man who choked lover to death

  • Report by Emily Reader

The Attorney General's Office is considering whether to appeal against the four years and eight months jail term handed to a Darlington man who choked his lover to death during sex.

Sam Pybus, 32, was sentenced to four years and eight months for killing Sophie Moss.

Labour's Harriet Harman, who chairs Parliament's Joint Committee on Human Rights, wrote to the Attorney General to complain about the "unduly lenient" sentence handed on Tuesday.

A court heard Pybus applied “prolonged” pressure to Moss’s neck during consensual sex at her home in Darlington in the early hours of 7 February.

The mother-of-two was found unconscious and naked by police officers in her bed, and later died in hospital.

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

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.

Married Pybus told police they had been in a casual relationship for three years, and that she encouraged him to strangle her during consensual sex.

The court heard her long-term partner, not named in court, said likewise.

Judge Paul Watson QC, jailed Pybus for four years and eight months having reduced the sentence down from seven years after giving credit for his early guilty plea to manslaughter.

Killer Sam Pybus Credit: Durham Police

Ms Harman has written to the Attorney General Michael Ellis QC to apply for the Court of Appeal under the Unduly Lenient Sentence scheme.

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."

A spokesperson for the Attorney General's Office said: "We have received a request for the case of Sam Pybus to be considered under the Unduly Lenient Sentence scheme.

"The Law Officers have 28 days from sentencing to consider the case and make a decision on whether to refer the sentence to the Court of Appeal."

After the hearing, Christopher Atkinson, of CPS North East, said: "While the defendant has always acknowledged the fatal consequences of his actions, he also claimed that it was never his intent to cause Sophie serious harm or, as was tragically the case, her death.

"We must make it very clear that the Crown Prosecution Service has not simply accepted the account put forward by the defendant, but that we have proactively determined that there was insufficient evidence capable of establishing beyond reasonable doubt that he intended the serious harm or death of Sophie Moss."

Meanwhile, MP for Sedgefield Paul Howell has also joined calls for reviewing the sentence.

Paul Howell said: “The judge sentenced Pybus to four years and eight months after pleading guilty to manslaughter after initially being charged with murder of the mother-of-two.

“The Government’s recent Domestic Abuse Act introduced a new crime Non-Fatal Strangulation with a maximum of 5 years imprisonment. Although all acts of domestic violence are abhorrent, it seems absurd that someone who commits actual bodily harm will get a longer sentence than someone who commits manslaughter and excuses their actions with memory loss caused by excessive drinking and ‘rough sex’.

“I have today written to the Rt Hon Lucy Frazer QC MP, Solicitor General as indicated below and I will be following the appeals process closely.”