HMA v Michael Brown

Michael Brown, who was sentenced to seven years imprisonment for being involved in organised crime, has had his custodial sentence reduced following an appeal. The appellant was indicted along with eight co accused. He pled guilty to the charge but he argued that the seven year sentence did not show that he had given an “unequivocal indication” that he intended to plead guilty at an early stage. A six and a half year sentence was imposed as a result as the appeal Court ruled that the Judge had erred. The appellant pled guilty at a continued preliminary hearing on 24 November 2017 to an amended charge which included creating false documents and the concealment of firearm and drugs charges. In January 2018, Mr Brown was sentenced to eight and a half years which included a bail aggravation and this was reduced because of his early guilty plea. It was appealed on the basis of the level of discount given. It was agreed between the client and his solicitor a plea would be tendered on the 2nd of November 2017 and the Crown were aware of the position on this date. A preliminary hearing due to take place the next day was postponed on the part of the Crown.

The appeal judges agreed with the defence argument that the sentencing judge erred by believing that only methods by which the accused’s unequivocal indication of pleading guilty can be conveyed is by pleading guilty at a Diet or by section 76 letter. Lord Turnbull in conclusion of the appeal said: “In these circumstances it seems to us that the appellant did indicate his intention to plead guilty on 2 November at what was the conclusion of a series of bona fide discussions between his representatives and the Crown, in what was a complex case which would have involved a lengthy trial had resolution not been achieved.” The accused was therefore given a headline sentence of 8 years reduced by approximately 20% to give a term in prison of six years and six months.