SENTENCING STATEMENTS

 

A judge may decide to publish a statement after passing sentence on an accused in cases where there is particular public interest; where a case has legal significance; or where providing the reasons for the decision might assist public understanding.

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When deciding a sentence, a judge must deal with the offence that the offender has been convicted of, taking into account the unique circumstances of each particular case. The judge will carefully consider the facts that are presented to the Court by both the prosecution and by the defence.

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HMA v Peter Cannon

 

Jul 28, 2020

At the High Court in Glasgow today Judge Buchanan imposed an order for lifelong restriction with a punishment part of 4 years 10 months on Peter Cannon after he pleaded guilty to attempted murder.


On sentencing, Judge Buchanan made the following statement in court:

“Peter Cannon.

I have listened carefully to all that has been said by your counsel. I have also considered the social work reports, the risk assessment report prepared by Dr Marshall and all of the points made on your behalf.

You pled guilty to a very serious charge of attempted murder. What you did amounted to a brutal and premeditated attack with a knife upon your entirely innocent and defenceless victim who suffered serious injuries and it is only by the greatest of good fortune that she did not die. Your behaviour was truly horrific and shocking and driven by your enduring and obsessive grudge against the housing association for which your victim worked. It is likely that the psychological consequences for her, and indeed other people who were present and witnessed your actions, will be significant and long lasting.

Your record of previous convictions is not particularly serious but I note that in 2002 you were convicted in the Sheriff Court of an offence involving your possession of a bladed article.

There have been difficulties in the past in securing your co-operation when you have required support in the community in relation to matters concerning your physical and mental health. You are said by the author of the risk assessment report to have a mistrustful attitude towards professionals such as social workers and to the sharing of information about you. You are also considered to be suspicious about the prospect of supervision and treatment in the community.

The circumstances explained and the views expressed by the risk assessor in his very detailed and comprehensive report lead me to conclude that it is unlikely that you would fully engage whilst in the community in all the measures of treatment and supervision required to mitigate the high risk which you pose to the public at large. I am also satisfied that following your release from prison you would require to be supervised and monitored in the community not for a fixed period of greater or lesser duration but upon an indefinite basis.

In light of the nature and circumstances of the appalling crime which you committed and the risk factors which have been identified I am satisfied that there is a likelihood that, if at liberty, you will seriously endanger the lives, or physical or psychological wellbeing, of members of the public at large.

Accordingly, the requirements for the imposition of an order for lifelong restriction are, in my opinion, satisfied. This disposal constitutes a sentence of imprisonment for an indeterminate period. It means that you will only ever be released from prison into the community if the Parole Board for Scotland can be satisfied that public safety will not be endangered by such a course being taken. And even then you will be subject to particularly strict conditions and liable to be recalled to prison if you break them. For the rest of your life you will be subject to continuing risk management and close supervision.

The law requires me to set a minimum term of imprisonment which is referred to as the punishment part of your sentence. This is no more than the minimum period which you must serve in prison before the Parole Board can, in the future, even consider your case. I wish to stress that this is no more than a minimum period and it should not be thought by you or anyone that it in any sense reflects my view of when you should be released. Under the law passed by Parliament, whether and when you may be released, after the expiry of the minimum period is a matter, as I have said, for the Parole Board. Given the high level of risk which you present to the public it is possible that you may never be released.

The law provides a particular approach which a judge must adopt in setting the punishment part of this type of sentence. I must start by considering what would have been an appropriate determinate sentence for the crime which you committed, ignoring the period necessary for the protection of the public. I must also allow such discount as is appropriate to reflect the stage in the proceedings at which you indicated your intention to plead guilty and the circumstances in which that indication was given. Finally, I am bound to make a further reduction to take account of the rules about early release.

In the circumstances of the present case had I been imposing a determinate sentence after a trial I would have imposed an extended sentence of 17 years comprising a custodial part of 13 years together with an extension period of 4 years for the protection of the public.

However, in recognition of your plea of guilty following submission of a Section 76 letter just over two months after your first appearance on petition at Greenock Sheriff Court I would have restricted the custodial part of the sentence to 9 years and 9 months. The public protection element of the overall sentence would have been met by the lengthy extension period imposed for that specific purpose.

I then have to take account of the early release rules. This means that the period of 9 years and 9 months falls to be reduced by fifty per cent so that the punishment part becomes 4 years and 10 months.

I repeat that the punishment part must be understood as a bare minimum, which I am obliged by statute to calculate, using the process which I have just explained.

The sentence will be backdated to 1st October last year when you were first remanded in custody in connection with this matter.”

 27 July 2020