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HMA v Dean Ferguson


Jan 8, 2024

At the High Court in Glasgow today, Lord Clark sentenced Dean Ferguson to 6 years and 4 months in prison. The offender had previously pled guilty to the culpable homicide of Billy Jo Bates.

On sentencing, Lord Clark told Ferguson:

"Dean Ferguson, you have pled guilty to killing Billy Jo Bates, a man who can be described as your second cousin and who was your friend. On 18 November 2018 you stabbed him twice with a large knife. One of the blows punctured his liver, causing a deep and fatal wound. He was so severely injured that he died four days later.

The agreed narrative states that the precise details of what happened in the incident cannot be determined and that no eyewitness accounts are available. However, it is clear that there was a violent confrontation between you and Billy Jo Bates. You sustained cuts to your face and a laceration above your left ear.

I have listened to what has been said about your account of the events. The Crown can neither confirm nor deny the terms of that account. In essence, you say that Mr Bates had a knife in his hand and was trying to hit you with it. You took hold of his arm and forced him to drop the knife. You then picked it up. You say that Mr Bates struck you on the head with a Buckfast bottle, causing you to fall to the ground and Mr Bates then straddled over you with the bottle in his hand. You then swung the knife at him, causing the injuries and his death.

The medical report states that the wounds you had were what would be expected as a consequence of being struck with a bottle that smashed on impact.

I am therefore satisfied that there was a degree of provocation. But, as you have accepted in the Criminal Justice Social Work report (CJSWR), the death of Mr Bates could have been prevented and things could have been dealt with in a different manner.

Following the incident, the police viewed you as a potential suspect but in the immediate aftermath you fled the country and remained abroad for some time. You had to be extradited from Holland in 2022.

In reaching my decision on sentencing I have had regard to the full circumstances, including the seriousness of the offence, culpability and harm, everything said on your behalf by senior counsel and the terms of the CJSWR. I note what is said in the report about your personal history and family background, including an unsettled childhood.

I also note that you have no analogous previous convictions and have never been given a custodial sentence. You have expressed remorse for the tragic consequences of your actions. This was not a premeditated act, but was spontaneous, apparently in reaction to fear of assault.

I have also taken into account the victim impact statement, written by the mother of Billy Jo Bates. She explains, in her deeply-moving words, the devastating consequences your conduct has had on the family. There is no sentence I can impose which can even begin to relieve their grief.

If you had been convicted after a trial, I would have imposed a sentence of 7 years’ imprisonment.

There is some utilitarian value in the timing of your plea and so a discount will be applied. In the exercise of my discretion you are sentenced to 6 years and 4 months’ imprisonment.

Without the degree of provocation, a longer sentence would have been given.  

The sentence is backdated to 4 February 2022, when you were first remanded in custody in Holland.”