HMA v Barry O’Neill 2018

Mr O’Neil was unsuccessful in a High Court appeal against his sentence of seven years and four months, however he has successfully appealed against his travel ban.

The High court did not agree with the appellant’s argument that his sentence was “excessive.” However, the appeal Court did agree that the restriction order preventing the appellant leaving the UK two years after his release was not necessary. Mr O’Neil was involved in a gang who was concerned with the supply of cocaine. He pled guilty to the charge outlined in the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 which was aggravated with the fact he was involved in serious organised crime.

The headline sentence by the original Judge in this case was one of eight years which was reduced to seven years and four months for his early guilty plea. The travel restriction was also imposed as part of the punishment. One of the years on the headline sentence of eight years was due to the aggravation which was not challenged by the appellant but argued seven years for the supply charge was excessive. The appellant’s argument in his favour was his short record with no offending since 2013, his good work record, family report and the fact the Social work report stated he was only medium risk of reoffending.

They further argued that his involvement was limited to the events of a single day and two requests for the same payment so the original Judge did not give due weight to all these factors and further the travel restriction was not necessary.

In delivering the Appeal Courts opinion Lord Menzies stated: “There are sufficient factors in the present appellant’s case which point to him having a significant role that we do not consider that a starting point of seven years can be said to be inconsistent with the definitive guideline.” It was concluded the sentence could not be said to be excessive.

However, the appeal Court did agree to quash the travel ban imposed. Lord Menzies continued: “We consider that the submissions on behalf of the appellant in relation to the travel restriction order are well founded. The sentencing judge does appear to have considered that he was obliged to impose the order and not to have gone through the first stage of considering whether it was appropriate to do so.”