Juveniles who are guilty of murders can legitimately be sentenced to jail terms of about 30 years, the Court of Appeal ruled yesterday. The court rejected an appeal by a killer who was 15 at the time of his crime to have his 30-year sentence reduced. Lee Kar-yeung, now 17, helped three older youths strangle a loanshark and saw his body into pieces which have never been found. Jerome Matthews, for Lee, said the teenager might spend longer behind bars than if he had been given a life sentence. Adult life sentences are reviewed every few years, meaning that the amount of time 'lifers' serve can vary greatly. Mr Matthews argued that laws introduced in 1997 allowing courts to sentence murderers under 18 to definite terms were intended to lead to them receiving shorter sentences. 'The legislature would not have envisaged [longer] sentences being served by youths, because the discretion only applies to youths. It does not apply to anyone over the age of 18 at the time of the commission of the offence.' Mr Matthews added: 'The concern is that young offenders who commit a serious offence such as this do not stay in prison for, in effect, the majority of their youthful lives . . . perhaps up to middle age.' He accepted that the killing committed by Lee was brutal and pre-meditated. Money-lender Ma Chun-mo, 24, described as 'a shark which didn't bite' because he did not threaten people who failed to repay in time, was lured to a Mongkok flat, pinned down and strangled with a television cord. The body was sawn into pieces and dumped at a Tai Po rubbish collection site. It has never been found. Mr Justice Gerald Nazareth, rejecting the appeal against sentence, said the murder of the loanshark was 'unquestionably brutal'. He said Lee's sentence would be reviewed each year until he was 21 and he would not necessarily serve longer than if he had been jailed for life. 'In these circumstances there is no support for the submission that the sentence of 30 years was manifestly excessive. There is no good reason for interfering with it,' the judge said.