TWO teenagers have been sentenced for the murder and manslaughter of Reece Tansey. Here we print, in full, the sentencing remarks made by the judge, Mrs Justice Farbey at Manchester Crown Court. Reporting restrictions are in place preventing the defendants being identified and so, where the judge uses their names, we have substituted Boy A and Boy B.

On 4 May 2021, just before 4.45am, in the Great Lever area of Bolton, Reece Tansey was stabbed to death with a knife. He was aged 15. He was stabbed six times. Two of the stabs were inflicted with such force that they each cut a piece of bone and one had detached a piece of rib bone. Boy A, you stabbed Reece and have been found guilty of his murder. You were 15 years old at the time of the offence and are 16 years old now. Boy B, you encouraged Boy A to attack Reece and have been found guilty of manslaughter. You were 14 years old at the time of the offence and are 15 years old now.

As a result of what each of you did, Reece has lost many years of his life. His mother and father have lost a much-loved young son. A child even younger than Reece has lost an admired big brother.

The victim personal statement was written by Reece’s mother Laura Tansey and read in court by Mr Ford QC who is the prosecution barrister. The statement movingly describes how the family will never be able to come to terms with the senselessness of Reece’s death. During the trial, his family suffered the distress of watching CCTV footage which showed him running for his life, being stabbed repeatedly, and collapsing in the residential street where he lay fatally injured. Reece’s family suffered the stress of watching a video on Snapchat made by you, Boy A. The video shows the blade of the bloodied murder weapon with the words “Tuesday” (which was the day you murdered him) and “muppet” (which was an insult designed to humiliate Reece). Your decision to circulate that image on Snapchat is chilling.

Boy A and Boy B, in deciding your sentences, I will set out my conclusions on the evidence that I saw and heard during your trial with the jury. I must sentence you only on the basis of facts that I am sure about. If I am not sure about something, I must give you the benefit of the doubt.

I am sure of the following things. In the days or weeks leading up to 4 May, there had been “beef” – in other words, an ongoing disagreement – between Boy B and another boy whom I shall call H. In this beef, Boy B recruited Boy A as a supporter. Reece supported H. As a result, you both arranged a fight with H and Reece. You used mainly Snapchat to arrange it, sending and receiving messages from about 1.30am on the night of 4 May. Having left your homes separately, you met on the way to confront Reece. H decided not to leave his house so he did not come to the fight. But Reece did go to meet you. He was on his own.

Although Boy B recruited Boy A as his supporter, I am sure that you, Boy A, took the leading role in goading Reece to the confrontation. Using Snapchat, you threatened him with violence. You used obscene and humiliating language towards him. About two hours before his death, you said that you would make him beg for his life. You went on to ask him seven times where he was. You repeatedly asked him to turn on his location on Snapchat so that you could track his movements. At around 3.10am, about an hour and a half before you used a knife to kill him, you messaged Reece to say that you and Boy B did not carry knives and you suggested to Reece that it would be a fist fight. When you left home, you took two knives from your kitchen – one for you and one for Boy B. You deceived Reece about the knives because you wanted to win the fight.

Boy B, you played a lesser role than Boy A but I am sure that you helped to goad Reece into meeting for a fight. You too threatened him with violence saying that you would slice him up if needed. You asked Reece to turn on his location and asked a mutual friend where Reece was.

Boy B, at 2.55am you sent a Snapchat message saying “Lad I’ll record it.” That message is consistent with a plan for a one-on-one fist fight between Boy A and Reece, with you recording it for circulation on social media, in the same way that your social media contacts would circulate videos of other fights.

There was some suggestion that H would come for a two-on-two fight and Reece tried to persuade H to come along. But Reece sent Snapchat messages more than an hour before the attack saying that it would be a two-on-one fight and that he was coming on his own.

By around 4am, the two of you had met up and were walking towards Bradford Road. A couple of minutes later, Boy B spoke to Reece on the phone. From what may be heard on CCTV audio, Boy B said to Reece that he was going to record Reece getting smashed up.

During the course of the Snapchat messages on that night, some of what Reece said to either or both of you was aggressive. He threatened violence against both of you. I do not think that Reece’s messages showed that he wanted a serious fight. I am sure that Reece’s messages were the words of a frightened child trying in vain to scare you off from fighting him. Because of his young age, he was unable to overcome the peer pressure you put on him to fight.

The two of you confronted Reece on the corner of Walker Avenue. Parts of the CCTV are not clear but Reece may have tried to fight either Boy A alone or both of you. Irrespective of precisely what happened on the street corner, I am sure that Reece was unarmed.

You both then chased Reece. Boy A quickly caught up with him. Boy B lagged behind. I am sure that both of you were holding knives in your hands as you ran. When he caught up with Reece, Boy A attacked him with a knife. Reece was able to run away but Boy A caught up and for a second time attacked him with the knife. Reece got away but Boy A pursued him into a front garden. Boy B slowed down and did not go into the garden.

Reece and Boy A ran through two gardens and back onto the street. Boy B also ran but lagged behind. Boy A caught up with Reece, who had fallen to the ground in the middle of the road. While Reece was down on all fours facing the ground, Boy A attacked him with the knife for a third time and fell to the ground himself. Boy B ran towards them but stayed on the pavement a short distance away. Given that distance, I am not sure that he had any intention to get physically involved in the fight.

Fatally injured, Reece managed to get off the ground and run until he collapsed on a garden path in an effort to get help. Despite the best efforts of paramedics at the scene and doctors at hospital, Reece tragically died about two hours after the attack. The pathologist Dr Carter concluded that the cause of death was multiple stab wounds. Three of the six stab wounds were so deep that they could each have caused death by themselves. These were the wounds to the left arm, top of the left shoulder and right side of the mid-back. The remaining three stab wounds were superficial.

After the attack you both ran away. Boy A, you hid the murder weapon in order to avoid detection. You then went home. You later told police that you had hidden the knife in a grassed area by a nearby brook; but despite a comprehensive search, it was never recovered. You carried out a factory reset on your phone, wrongly thinking that you could cover up the incriminating Snapchat messages. After it had become publicly known that Reece had died, you told your mother that you had stabbed him. She and your stepfather took you and the clothes you had been wearing to a police station where you were arrested at lunchtime on 4 May. Boy B, you ran away with Boy A but then went to your grandparents’ home in order to avoid detection. They sent you home where you were arrested mid afternoon on 4 May.

Boy A, for the offence of murder, there is only one sentence recognised by law, which is one of detention during Her Majesty’s pleasure. I must also set the minimum term which you must serve which is the number of years that you will serve in custody before you may apply to the parole board who will decide if it is safe or not for you to leave custody.

Parliament has decided that the starting point for the minimum term for anyone under 18 convicted of murder is 12 years. That is a far lower figure than if you were an adult and is a reflection of your age. I adopt 12 years as the starting point as I am obliged to do. But I must also consider whether there are aggravating factors. That means factors which make your offence more serious and which point to a minimum term that is more than 12 years. I must consider mitigating factors. That means factors which point to a reduction in the minimum term. I must weigh all the factors and set a minimum term which reflects the overall seriousness of your offence. In doing so, I have thought about (among other things) the Youth Guideline that has been drawn up for judges sentencing children and young people.

I shall deal first with the aggravating factors. It is a serious aggravating factor that you were responsible for bringing two knives to the scene. You armed Boy B with one knife. You deliberately used the other knife to attack Reece. You continued to stab him when he was on all fours on the ground. The persistence of the attack – which continued when it was obvious that Reece was injured and on the ground – can only have caused Reece mental and physical suffering before death and is a serious aggravating factor.

Your planning of the attack was not limited to bringing knives. Your decision to fight Reece was planned with Boy B and premeditated to a significant degree as the Snapchat messages show, though your violence beyond a fist fight was spontaneous.

You goaded and taunted Reece into meeting you. He was a child like you. Even if you did not exploit his young age, he was outnumbered and he was unarmed. These are aggravating factors.

As I have already mentioned, in the immediate aftermath of the attack, you circulated a video relating to the offence to other children and young people on social media. As the Youth Guideline suggests, that too is an aggravating factor. You hid the murder weapon so it could not be found. You tried to get rid of evidence from your phone. By taking these actions, you were trying to cover up what you had done.

I shall deal now with the mitigating factors, starting with the question of whether you had an intention to cause serious bodily harm rather than to kill. I am sure that your intention in fighting Reece was to boast and brag to your peer group on Snapchat about scoring a victory over him rather than to kill him. I have considered your age and immaturity, the impulsive nature and spontaneity of the stabbing which may mean that you did not appreciate that you were killing him. I am sure that you intended really serious harm to Reece as opposed to death, which is a mitigating factor.

I have thought carefully about everything that is in the pre-sentence report and other specialist reports which were produced for the trial. You have been diagnosed with ADHD and other mixed disorders of conduct and emotions. You have had a history of exclusion from school at an early age. The pre-sentence report concludes that there are very high concerns in relation to your safety and well being. Your age (which was well below the age of 18 at the time of the offence), your troubled background and your immaturity for someone of your age are mitigating factors. You do not have any previous findings of guilt. You told your mother what you had done at an early stage. The degree to which you have shown insight into your actions is not clear but you have shown remorse.

I have balanced the aggravating and mitigating factors. The use of a knife which you brought from home all the way to the fight in Walker Avenue and the other aggravating factors lead me to the conclusion that the minimum term must be above the 12-year starting point, despite your age and circumstances. The sentence of this court is detention during Her Majesty’s pleasure. The minimum term will be 15 years less 259 days spent on remand, making 14 years and 106 days.

After you have spent another 14 years and 106 days in custody, the parole board will decide if it is safe for you to leave. If it is not safe for you to be released, you will stay in custody for longer. If it is safe for you to leave, you will be on licence until the end of your life.

There will be rules which are called licence conditions that you will have to follow. If you break those rules you may have to go back into custody.

Boy A, that is your sentence and you must go down with the dock officer.

Boy B, the verdict of the jury represents a finding that you did not intend that Reece should die or be caused grievous bodily harm. I have concluded that you intended that there would be a fist fight between Boy A and Reece which you would film. You were then drawn into events beyond what you had intended. As the Youth Guidance emphasises, a person who is your age may not understand risks in the same way as an adult. But you had provoked a fight with Reece because you had an unexplained argument with H. You recruited Boy A to fight for you. There came a point when you took a knife from Boy A to back him up in the fight. You knew that Boy A had a knife. By the time the chase started, you knew that it was a two-on-one fight. Even if you lagged behind, you took part in the chase.

Boy B, for the offence of manslaughter, your crime is so serious that I must sentence you to long-term detention for a period of more than two years. I need to decide how long your sentence will be. The prosecution say that your offence was one of high culpability, meaning high blameworthiness on your part. The prosecution say that your offence was one of high culpability under the sentencing guideline for manslaughter because death was caused in the course of an unlawful act which carried a high risk of death or grievous bodily harm which was or ought to have been obvious to you. Your barrister, Ms Grahame QC has made the argument that, owing to your immaturity, the dangers and risks in what you did would not have been obvious to you. She asks me to place your offence between high culpability and medium culpability under the guideline.

I have thought carefully about everything that has been written in your pre-sentence report and in the report of Dr Van Leeson who is an independent forensic psychologist. The reports demonstrate that you are immature for your age. You are susceptible to peer pressure. But Reece was on his own and not armed. It ought to have been obvious to you that chasing Reece with a knife in order to back up Boy A who was armed with a knife carried a high risk of very serious injury to Reece. Your offence is one of high culpability. The guideline for manslaughter says that the starting point for adults who have committed a manslaughter as serious as yours is 12 years’ custody and that ordinarily the prison sentence for adults should be between eight and 16 years.

I must consider whether there are any aggravating factors which make your offence even more serious. Most of the factors outlined by the prosecution are the same or overlapping factors that make your offence one of high culpability and so I will not count them again. After the attack, you tried to cover up evidence by deleting Snapchat messages from your phone which is (as the prosecution submit) an aggravating factor.

On the other side of the scales, in mitigation, you have a long documented history of being known to children’s services and social care, having been subject to child protection measures in relation to significant neglect at a young age. You suffered serious and prolonged early childhood trauma which has affected you developmentally, emotionally, psychologically and physically, in a number of significant ways. Your conduct over the past several years has been influenced by your upbringing, neglect, learnt behaviours and physical problems which you have found extremely hard to deal with. You have had a highly unstable upbringing.

You have no previous findings of guilt.

Weighing all these things, if you were an adult, it would not be right to sentence you above the starting point of 12 years. But the seriousness of what you did means that your sentence would not be less than 12 years if you were an adult. If I give you what is called a standard determinate sentence – where everyone knows from the start how long you will be in custody – I would reduce the adult sentence by one half because you are a child. I would sentence you to half of 12 years which would be six years.

I have thought very carefully about whether I can give you a standard determinate sentence in light of my duty to protect the public from serious harm. To decide whether I can give you a standard determinate sentence, I have to think about the offence and how serious it is. I have decided that your offence is one of high culpability. I have thought about your age, your immaturity and your difficult childhood. I have thought about the help you need and your welfare.

I have considered Dr Van Leeson’s independent psychological assessment. She interviewed you and your father. She reviewed your educational and medical records. She carried out what is called a Structured Assessment of Violence Risk in Youth referred to as SAVRY. In summary, she thinks that you are suitable for a standard determinate sentence.

I have considered the pre-sentence report from your YOT officer and her recent updating report which contain a lot of information. She got the information from lots of places. You have known her since May 2021. She has been in regular contact with both your parents since then. She attended every day of the trial. She looked after you in the dock.

You denied to the jury that you carried a knife on 4 May. You are struggling to accept your role in Reece’s death, saying that you did not kill Reece because you did not stab him. It says in the pre-sentence report that you told your YOT worker that you have taken knives out in the past. You told her that if you were meeting someone for a fight who was known for carrying weapons, you would take one. Before you spoke to your YOT officer about knives you had not told anyone else this.

However, I asked your YOT officer today in court to say whether she thought that you did carry knives before this offence or whether your comments to her were the sort of bravado that has been part of the way you operate because of your difficult childhood experiences and PTSD. She told me that she could not be sure that it was not bravado.

While on remand, you have done well in education. The staff are now learning to accept that angry outbursts and threats are linked to the difficulties that you have in expressing yourself. Importantly, you have not carried them out.

You were 14 years old at the time of the offence. You have no previous findings of guilt whether for violence or anything else. The Youth Guideline points out that children and young people may change and develop within a shorter time than adults and this factor, along with their level of maturity, may be highly relevant when assessing probable future conduct and whether it may cause a significant risk of serious harm. The reports which I have make me think that being in a structured environment of detention will help you to make progress in dealing with your psychological problems caused by traumatic childhood events and unstable upbringing during a determinate sentence in a secure place.

The question that Parliament has told me to ask is whether there is a significant risk that you will cause serious harm by committing further similar offences in the future. I have concluded that the public will be protected by your serving a sentence in a secure place and that there is not a significant risk of further similar offences. I will impose a standard determinate sentence.

Your sentence is therefore six years detention. You have spent 259 days on remand which will be taken off the time that you must now spend in detention. Your precise date of release will be calculated by the custodial authorities in accordance with my sentence. You will serve up to one half of your sentence in custody. You will serve the remainder on licence. Being on licence means that there are rules, or ‘conditions’ that you will have to follow. If you break those rules you may have to go back into custody for the rest of your sentence, or some of it.