Michael Adebowale and Michael Adebolajo were on Wednesday sentenced to life imprisonment at the Old Bailey. Both men were found guilty of the murder of a British soldier, Lee Rigby who they hacked to death in 2013.
While Adebolajo, 29, got a life sentence, Mr. Justice Sweeny ruled that Adebowale, 22 is to spend at least 45 years behind bars before he can be considered for parole.
During the sentencing, a contingent of British National Party supporters were seen outside the court with a pair of gallows to raise awareness of their policy to bring back the death penalty for certain crimes.
While going through the case history, the prosecutor told the court that Adebolajo has previous convictions including assault on a police officer while previous convictions for Michael Adebowale include drug related offences, for which he spent time in a young offenders’ institute.
In a statement which was read out in the court, Lee Rigby’s widow Rebecca said “I was suddenly living in the public gaze. I couldn’t go anywhere or do anything. I felt like I didn’t want to go on. I saw people nudging and looking at me if I walked down the street I know my son will grow up and see images of his dad that no son would have to endure and there’s nothing I can do to change this.”
In his address, Adebolajo’s lawyer, David Gottlieb compared his client’s extremist views to “alcoholism” or a severe “psychiatric” illness. “Whatever his expressed views or wishes, he’s not somebody who’s incapable of change,” he said. He also stated that Lee Rigby’s murder was a “hate crime” rather than a “mass casualty attack”.
The counsel pointed out that Adebolajo intended to die and has maintained his desire to be put to death
Michael Adebowale’s lawyer on the other hand reminded the judge of his family, his character and his background. He said “at all stages he has been candid and taken responsibility for his actions. He was brought up in Romford and was brought up in a loving family. In his evidence he describes what it means to succeed as a young black man. Although it’s right to say he has 6 children (four of them are step-children). His son was born four days before he committed this offence.” Speaking further, he said “it clearly wasn’t his intention to make passersby scared.”
While rounding off his address, Adebolajo’s lawyer said to the judge, “I ask my Lord to consider a finite sentence”.
Adebowale’s lawyer claimed that although it was a joint enterprise, the judge should remember that evidence showed his client played a “lesser role” in the offence. “It is not contended that his acts were as a result of a psychiatric condition that he undoubtedly suffered from. We respectfully submit that that condition being known, it is a factor that my Lord should, and must, bear in mind,” he said.
Gottlieb argued that his client should not be given a whole-life order, with no hope of parole as he said “there was no evidence they were part of a larger organisation
or group, nor was there any evidence that in carrying out the act of the killing that they did any more than what they believed was the command of God, certainly not in furtherance of a religious or ideological cause supported by a group that they were members of.”
When the judge told them that they have both been convicted on overwhelming evidence of the barbaric murder of Lee Rigby, Michael Adebolajo shouted “Allahu Akbar”. He and Adebowale had to be restrained and removed from the dock.
The outburst from both men came as the judge said he was in no doubt they had both become radicalised and extreme in their views. As they were taken off the dock, they started a scuffle with guards. Adebowale was heard shouting “You (Britain) and America will never be safe!”
While pronouncing the sentence, which was done in the absence of the convicts, Justice Sweeney said “you each converted to Islam some years ago. Thereafter you were radicalised and each became an extremist, espousing a cause and views as has been said elsewhere are a portrayal of Islam. You both gloried in what you had done.
In order to advance your extremist cause you decided to murder a solider in public daylight. Lee Rigby had done absolutely nothing to do what you went on to do to him. You stalked him and went into Artillery Place where he crossed the road in front of you. You accelerated hard and ran him down. You both exited the car armed with knives and over a period of 3-4 minutes you butchered Lee Rigby.
You, Adebolajo, concentrated at his neck hacking at it repeatedly, all in an attempt to decapitate him for maximum horrific effect.”
Justice Sweeny continued that “I’m sure this was a murder with a terrorist connection, though I’m careful not to consider it in that regard.”
He therefore delivered a whole-life tariff for Michael Adebolajo. Though Adebowale too got a life sentence, his was a bit lighter in the sense that he must serve at least 45 years before he can be reviewed for parole.