Following today’s sentencing hearing that saw couple, and half brother and sister, Brandon Machin and Sarah Barrass sentenced to life imprisonment for the murders of Blake, 14, and Tristan Barrass, 13, and the plot to kill their other four children, here is my account of what it has been like to be present in court as this horrific case reached its conclusion.
As I sat on a packed press bench at Sarah Barass and Brandon Machin’s first appearance at Sheffield Crown Court on May 27 this year, there is no way that I, or any of the other journalists there, could ever have predicted the truly evil set of events, the details of which were finally read out in court today, that led to the deaths of tragic brothers, Blake and Tristan.
During that first appearance, Barrass even had the audacity to shout to the equally full public gallery, declaring: ‘I didn’t kill my boys’.
Throughout, Barrass and Machin have been visibly hostile towards the press, with Barrass describing us as a ‘pack of wolves’.
Despite what some may think, reporting on awful and incredibly complex cases such as this is not a task we relish; but it is an essential, and important function of a free press to provide the public with information about the circumstances that led to a tragedy such as this one so that if appropriate, lessons can be learned.
And this is done while balancing the many ethical and legal considerations in play, and of course, how what is reported may affect the victims.
It seems as though it is not only the press that found working on this case difficult.
The prosecutor in this case, Kama Melly QC, is an extremely experienced, formidable and professional barrister. But as she went into detail about the brothers’ murders, and the impact on their siblings, her voice appeared to quiver slightly. This may sound like a small detail, but for a consummate professional, who I’ve always observed projects her voice in an impressive manner, this was incredibly affecting.
Who can blame her? Those young boys were killed by their parents, the two people in this world that they should have been able to trust the most, in a truly shocking way. Not only that, but the incredible trauma experienced by Blake and Tristan’s surviving siblings, both at the time and as they attempt to come to terms with what has happened, is enough, in my view, to make you want to cry.
But that did not stop Barrass talking to the dock officer who sat in between her and Machin as Mr Justice Goss sentenced the pair to life imprisonment.
He had to stop proceedings more than once to get her to listen as she was told she will spend the next 35 years, at least, behind bars.