HMA v William Buchan 2018

Mr Buchan has successfully appealed against his sentence in the High Court at Edinburgh. The appellant pled guilty at Perth Sheriff Court to a drink driving charge after he was caught by the police over seven times the legal limit.

He was jailed for eight months as a result. The appellant had previous convictions it came to light for drink driving and also sexual offences including possessing indecent images of children. The appellant was sentenced at the sheriff court in October 2018 and the headline sentence was one of 12 months imprisonment and a disqualification from driving for 9 years. However, taking in to account his guilty plea this was discounted to 8 months imprisonment and a 6 year disqualification from driving.

The appeal court however were in agreement with the appellants argument that the sentence of 8 months was incompetent as the maximum sentence available to the sheriff under this charge was 6 months as this was a statutory offence. However, the appeal judges did not agree with the appellant that a custodial sentence was inappropriate in the circumstances. The appellant argued that there were more appropriate disposals that would address his alcohol issues that the sheriff did not consider but this was not upheld.

Therefore the appeal was upheld on the first ground but not the second. The appeal court concluded the sheriff has erred stating: “It is, of course, clear that the maximum sentence available to the sheriff in respect of this offence is six months. The sentence of imprisonment therefore falls to be quashed as incompetent.”

However, Sheriff Principal Stephen continued: “When the high reading is combined with the appellant’s record for drink driving, that points to a custodial term being the most appropriate sentence for reasons of public safety on the roads, punishment and deterrence.” Therefore, the appeal court quashed the sentence and replaced it with one of six months, reduced to four months for the appellant’s guilty plea. The appellant was also disqualified from driving for six years and two months as a result.