Lukasz Czapla was convicted of the murder of his infant son. He was sentenced to a punishment part of 23 years imprisonment. It was argued on his behalf that due to his mental state at the time of the murder the sentence imposed was excessive.
On the 20th of November 2020 the child was staying with the appellant for the weekend. The appellant was jealous of the child’s mother entering into a new relationship and text messages were exchanged between them. The appellant had consumed alcohol and anti-depressants. His description of events was that he intended to commit suicide but was concerned about his son finding his body and being left with a mother that he believed neglected him. He shot the child with ball bearing; however, this did not kill him. He then stabbed him in the chest with a skewer and smothered him.
The court heard at trial from three psychiatrists in respect of the appellants mental state and the question of whether he had diminished responsibility. The sentencing judge stated that the appellant had acted out of spite and had been determined to ensure the child had died. The sentencing judge did not consider the appellant’s depression to be compelling in regards to mitigation.
Counsel for the appellant argued that the judge ought to have taken into account the appellant’s depression in the four-month period prior to the murder.
Lord Tyre in providing the opinion of the court stated: “The appeal proceeds on the basis that the appellant suffered from a depressed state of mind that caused him to consume excessive alcohol and antidepressant drugs and then, while his reasoning was impaired, to kill his son. It will be apparent from what we have quoted from the judge’s remarks and report that he did not accept that this was established by the evidence. Rather, he considered that the appellant’s primary motivation was a spiteful desire to punish his ex-partner.”
He continued: “The jury rejected the contention that the appellant had had diminished responsibility. That appears to us to leave very little room for a contention that the appellant nevertheless suffered from a mental disorder that caused him to behave out of character to the extent of committing a horrific and sustained assault on his two year old son.
Lord Tyre concluded: “The remaining question is whether a period of 23 years was nevertheless too long. We conclude that the circumstances of this case as summarised by the trial judge: the attack on the appellant’s sleeping son; the cruelty and determination with which the killing was carried out; the child’s distress; and the appellant’s persistence in ensuring that he died, justify a punishment part in excess of the 20-year guidance provided by Boyle v HM Advocate (2010). In all the circumstances we do not consider that a punishment part of 23 years fell out with the range reasonably open to the sentencing judge.”
The appeal against sentence was refused.