HIGH COURT OF JUSTICIARY
OPINION OF THE COURT
THE HONOURABLE LORD PROSSER
BILL OF SUSPENSION
MICHAEL EDWARD TAGGART
PROCURATOR FISCAL, PAISLEY
13 January 1999
This is a Bill of Suspension brought by Michael Edward Taggart. It arises out of the imposition of a period of detention upon him by the Sheriff at Paisley on 13 October 1998. The Sheriff, in imposing that period of detention, was doing so in substitution for a fine and Compensation Order imposed at an earlier date upon which the complainer had defaulted. The situation is one to which section 207(3) of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995 applied. That sub-section states that the court shall not, in the relevant circumstances, impose detention on an offender unless it is of the opinion that no other method of dealing with him is appropriate and the court shall state its reasons for that opinion and, except in the case of the High Court, those reasons shall be entered in the record of proceedings.
In this case the sheriff has written a report for this court. In that report he says that he does not know what was put in the court minutes by way of reasons. We proceed upon the basis that there is no record in the minutes of any reasons given. Moreover, the sheriff, while he now tells us his reasons, is entirely silent as to whether he stated those reasons at the time. Furthermore, such reasons as he does give do not appear to us to deal with the matter of whether any other method of dealing with the complainer was appropriate. The report is in these circumstances useless. Moreover, since there is no minute it appears to us that the decision cannot stand and we will pass the Bill to the effect of quashing the order for detention.
The situation remains one in which the original fine and Compensation Order would otherwise stand and it was submitted to us that, rather than substituting detention as the sheriff had done, we should substitute altered penalties in the same way as was done in the case to which were referred of Divers v Friel 1993 S.C.C.R. 394.
We are satisfied that that is the appropriate course. We were informed that the complainer has spent some nine days in custody as a result of the present proceedings. Moreover, we were informed that he had lost his job. While he had an interview as regards future employment, he has not yet got future employment. He has now recently attained the age of 18 and is entitled to benefits. It was submitted that taking these matters into account, and in particular the period spent in custody, an appropriate course might be to quash the fine and thus to ensure that any resources he had would be devoted to compensation. We were told that his own view was that he could pay at the rate of £5 per week.
In the whole circumstances we are satisfied that that is the right course. We will quash the fine. So far as the Compensation Order is concerned we understand that certain payments have already been attributed to it. We will not disturb the Compensation Order, it will remain in place though, of course, with credit for such payments as have already been made and we are satisfied that that will do justice overall. The rate of payment envisaged is, of course, the £5 suggested.