HMA v James Brand 2019

Mr Brand has failed in an appeal against sentence. The appellant appealed against his sentence to the High Court in Edinburgh on the basis that he should have been given a discount in sentence for pleading guilty on the morning of the trial diet and therefore the Sheriff had erred.

Mr Brand was sentenced to four years imprisonment for four assaults against an ex-partner and was also made subject to a non-harassment order. These assaults occurred on different occasions and all left the victim with very serious injuries. The appellant’s basis for his appeal was that the sheriff had erred in not applying a discount for the timing of his plea.

The appellant stated this plea was intimated to the crown before the trial which could have prevented witnesses attending, although on this date witnesses and the jury were in attendance. It was the position that the defence had called the crown too late in order to countermand the witnesses. Nevertheless the appellant still argued he should have been awarded a discount in the circumstances as no witnesses, including child witnesses, were required to give evidence. However, the appeal was refused.

The appeal court concluded the sheriff had not erred in not allowing a discount in sentence. Lord Turnbull stated: “In declining to afford a discount of sentence the sheriff took account of the factually correct information which was placed before him, the observations on discount made by the appellant’s agent and the whole history of the case proceedings. Having done so he concluded that it was inappropriate to afford a discount for this plea of guilty tendered at the trial diet…In these circumstances, in our opinion, there is no basis upon which the exercise of the sheriff’s legitimate discretion can be criticised and the appeal must be refused.”