APPEAL COURT, HIGH COURT OF JUSTICIARY
Lord Justice General
OPINION OF THE COURT
THE LORD JUSTICE GENERAL
NOTE OF APPEAL AGAINST SENTENCE
PETER JOHN GEDDES
HER MAJESTY'S ADVOCATE
Appellant: J. Hamilton; Turnbull McCarron
Respondent: P. Gray, A.D.; Crown Office
22 June 1999
The appellant is Peter John Geddes who pled guilty at the High Court at Edinburgh on 1 April 1999 to a charge of assault to severe injury. After an adjournment to obtain reports, on 22 April he was sentenced to five years imprisonment, three months of the sentence being in respect of the fact that the offence was committed while the appellant was on bail. He has appealed against that sentence.
The appellant is 23 years of age and the offence in question was committed on 18 January 1999. The circumstances were that at the relevant time the appellant lived with his mother and family, including his brothers Barry, who is the complainer in the charge, and Christopher at an address in Pollokshaws. He was an intravenous drug addict and was unemployed. He had taken from his brother Barry a Nintendo Playstation in order to sell it to obtain money with which to purchase heroin. Barry and Christopher went after him in the street and there was an argument and the Playstation was recovered. The appellant then went back to the house and he was allowed in by his mother who was aware of the disagreement between him and his brother. He said to his mother that he was going to "fuckin' kill that Barry".
As Mr Hamilton explained to us this morning, the position of the appellant was that that comment to his mother had been made simply in anger and was not an indication of any intent to kill his brother. The offence to which he pled guilty was, of course, assault to severe injury and not attempted murder.
The appellant got a knife from the kitchen, his mother telling him that he was better not to have a knife. He told her that if she telephoned the police she would get it too. The appellant then confronted Barry and Christopher as they made their way back to the house. He ran towards Barry making stabbing motions with his right arm raised. Barry raised his arm and backed off and the appellant struck him with the knife on a number of occasions. The result was that there were five wounds namely, first, a 6 cm incised wound on the back of the victim's left shoulder for which three deep and seven surface stitches were required, secondly, a 5 cm by 1 cm incised wound to the left lower back for which two deep and six surface stitched were required, thirdly, an incised wound on the back and left shoulder for which one stitch was required, fourthly, a 6 cm incised wound in the left upper arm for which five stitches were required and, finally, two superficial wounds on the front of the left shoulder which were dealt with by means of steri-strips. The complainer was treated at the Victoria Infirmary and the sentencing Judge records that none of the wounds was particularly deep, but he required physiotherapy due to injury to his left arm. It was expected that he would make a full recovery.
When the appellant was arrested he made a full statement to the police but in it he indicated that the wounds had been infected by the use of a syringe. In fact, there was no truth in this assertion at all and it is not clear why the appellant said what he did. We, of course, proceed on the basis that there was no question of an infection by the use of a syringe. A knife was found in the house which was identified as being similar to the one which he had taken and used. Earlier in the day he had borrowed £10 from his mother in order to buy drugs and had injected himself in the bathroom of the house.
In addressing us today, Mr Hamilton made reference to the note of appeal and to the grounds set out there. In the first of those grounds it is said that the sentencing Judge failed to attach sufficient weight to the circumstances of the appellant, in particular, the circumstances of his addiction, the efforts he had made to address his addiction and the availability of assistance in addressing his addiction from external bodies. So far as the circumstances of his addiction are concerned, Mr Hamilton said that he had become addicted when he was serving a prison sentence. He had, none the less, after this offence made considerable efforts to address his drug addiction. All these efforts had been made by the appellant himself and there had been no official assistance to him in this matter. He had made the rounds of people who could help him but had not achieved any success in that quarter. What Mr Hamilton really was submitting to us was that we should consider allowing the appeal and substituting a sentence which would be one of less than four years imprisonment. Such a sentence would fall within the scope of section 209 of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995 and it would be appropriate to make a supervised release order - that order could make provision for assistance to be given to the appellant in addressing his drug disorder. While in prison at the moment he was doing his best to avoid any involvement with drugs but it would be of material assistance to him and for his future if there could be a supervised release order which would address his drug addiction.
Mr Hamilton also said that the sentencing Judge had failed to attach sufficient weight to the conduct of the appellant in co-operating with the police in tendering a plea at an early stage in the proceedings and establishing a reconciliation with the complainer.
In his report to the Court the sentencing Judge tells us that he did indeed take into account that the offence took place against the background of drug addiction and that the appellant had taken some steps to make use of such assistance as was available to deal with the addiction. He also informs us that he did make allowance for the fact that the appellant had tendered an early plea of guilty. None the less, he says that having regard to the seriousness of the offence and to the past record of the appellant for violence, he considered that he should not impose a sentence of less than five years imprisonment of which three months were in respect of the bail aggravation.
That takes us to what was clearly a significant factor in the sentencing Judge's disposal, namely that in the High Court in Glasgow in October 1995 the appellant was sentenced in respect of a charge of assault with intent to ravish and a contravention of the Bail Act. The sentence imposed at the time was one of five years detention but on appeal it was reduced to three years detention.
The question for us is whether, having regard to the various factors mentioned by the sentencing Judge, the sentence selected by him can be regarded as excessive. We see the attractions of the course being suggested by Mr Hamilton of imposing a sentence of less than four years with a supervised release order and we have carefully considered whether that would be appropriate in this case. None the less, when we consider the previous conviction for assault with intent to ravish and the circumstances of the present offence involving the appellant arming himself with a knife and attacking his brother and inflicting a number of blows causing five wounds we conclude that we cannot say that the sentence selected by the sentencing Judge was excessive in all the circumstances.
For that reason the appeal is refused.