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HMA v Brandon Boyd and Connor Clark
May 16, 2022
On sentencing Lord Fairley made the following remarks in court:
"On the evening of 13 June 2019, Margaret Muir went to sleep in her bed in the farmhouse near Dumfries where she had lived for 82 years. Her 70 year old friend and carer, Mary Copmartin, was asleep in another bedroom on the same floor of the house.
In the early hours of 14 June 2019, Mrs Copmartin and Mrs Muir awoke to find that three unknown men had entered the house. The men were all wearing dark clothing and were wearing masks over their faces. They had smashed their way into the house through a set of glass patio doors on the ground floor. While she was still in her bed, a torch was shone into Mrs Copmartin’s eyes by one of the men. She could see that another of the men was carrying a crowbar which she thought might be used to assault her. She was so frightened she would be harmed that she pretended to be having a seizure. Her hands were bound with cable ties and she was led to Mrs Muir’s bedroom where Mrs Muir was also then tied up. The two elderly women were then tied together with cable ties, shouted and sworn at and threatened until Mrs Muir handed over the key to her safe. Parts of the house were ransacked, and the contents of the safe – which included gold, money, and jewellery valued in total at around £90,000 – were taken. Amongst the items taken were those with a sentimental value to Mrs Muir including a signet ring and watches that had belonged to her recently deceased husband.
The three robbers then made their escape in a getaway car driven by a fourth man. There was an excited discussion in the getaway car about the likely value of the contents of the safe that had been taken. On the evidence that I heard there was, at that stage, no indication of shame or regret from anyone in the car about the trauma inflicted upon the two elderly victims.
The case proceeded to trial, and Mrs Copmartin had to be called by the Crown to give evidence of her ordeal. She did so on the afternoon of Thursday 7 April. She became visibly distressed as she had to re-live the events of the early hours of 14 April 2019. Mrs Muir – who is now in her nineties – was not able to give evidence at the trial. Her evidence was presented through two statements given by her to the police in June and July of 2019 which were read into the evidence by a police officer. Towards the end of her first statement, Mrs Muir said, “I wouldn’t want this to happen to anyone else. It was awful, the most horrible thing I’ve experienced in my life. I was terrified”.
A week later, on the eighth day of the trial, and towards the end of the Crown case, you each finally accepted that you formed part of the group that carried out the robbery that I have just described. On the evidence that I heard, you were two of the three men within the house.
It is sometimes said that remorse is demonstrated by an early acceptance of guilt. That is not what happened here. Instead, you remained in the dock listening to Mrs Copmartin give her evidence. By the time you tendered your pleas of guilt to this charge in court, the Crown had withdrawn all charges against the driver of the getaway car and called him as a witness. On 13 April, he gave compelling evidence against both of you.
In your case, Mr Boyd, your senior counsel – I assume on your instructions – cross examined the getaway driver by putting to him that he had never met you, that he had had not picked you up in his car on 13 June 2019, and that he was lying about you. As you well knew, none of those propositions was true.
I have considered very carefully what is said in each of the Criminal Justice Social Work reports prepared for this hearing today, and I have listened to what has been said by your respective Senior Counsel.
The expressions of remorse which both of you have apparently expressed to the social workers are very difficult reconcile with the trial that I observed and with the circumstances that I have just described. Whilst I have no doubt that you regret the position that you are now in and are rightly anxious about the inevitability of a substantial prison sentence, your stated expressions of regret for what you did to Mrs Muir and Mrs Copmartin, such as they are, have been a very long time in coming and I attach little weight to them.
You both also now seek to distance yourself from the restraint of Mrs Muir and Mrs Copmartin with cable ties. As is reflected in the pleas tendered by you, however, that was part of the concerted assault and robbery in which you were both involved and from which you each of you failed, at any stage, to dissociate yourselves.
These courts have repeatedly stressed that offending of this kind will attract substantial custodial sentences. This was a despicable and cowardly crime which was an affront to civilised society. It involved a particularly nasty assault and robbery committed in a private house against two elderly and vulnerable complainers. Having had regard to all of the principles of sentencing – in particular those of punishment and deterrence – the only sentences that I can appropriately impose today are lengthy periods of imprisonment.
I have taken fully into account your respective ages and maturity levels at the date of the offence as well as your respective backgrounds. I have also taken account the age and vulnerability of your two victims, the manner in which they were assaulted, and the terrifying nature of the ordeal to which they were subjected in a place that should have been a place of safety and security.
In your case, Mr Boyd, I have also taken into account the fact that you are a first offender. Notwithstanding that factor, the serious and abhorent nature of this offence is such that if you been found guilty at the end of the trial, the sentence that I would have imposed upon you would have been one of imprisonment for 7 years and six months. I will discount that period to 7 years and four months to reflect the very limited utilitarian value of your plea in shortening the duration of the trial. I will backdate the start of that sentence to 14 April 2022 when you were remanded.
In your case, Mr Clark, the evidence that I had the advantage of hearing at the trial demonstrated that this robbery was your idea, and that you played a leading role in planning and executing it. You have a record that includes a recent conviction for housebreaking for which you were sentenced to a period of custody. This offence represents a significant escalation in the seriousness of your offending and a wholly different level of harm to your victims.
You were 25 at the date of the offence and are now 28. I take account of the fact that you presented to the social worker as immature. She also described you as selfish and egocentric.
Had you been convicted at the end of the trial, the sentence that I would have imposed upon you would have been one of imprisonment for 9 years. I will discount that to 8 years and 10 months to reflect the limited utilitarian value of your plea in shortening the duration of the trial, and I will deduct the period of 10 months that you spent on remand between October 2019 and August 2020 before you were granted bail. The total sentence of imprisonment which I impose upon you today is therefore one of 8 years imprisonment. Again, I will backdate the start of the sentence to 14 April 2022 when you were remanded for a second time following your plea of guilty."