Man jailed for assaulting fiscal in court has ‘excessive’ sentence appeal rejected



Lord Menzies
Lord Menzies

A man who was sentenced to a total of five years’ imprisonment after admitting assaulting police officers while on duty and assaulting a procurator fiscal depute in court has failed in an appeal against sentence.

The Criminal Appeal Court dismissed the appellant’s claim the total sentence imposed was “excessive”.

Lord Menzies and Lord Drummond Young heard that the appellant Scott Townsley appeared at a first diet at Dundee Sheriff Court in June 2016, facing a number of serious charges, which included a breach of a special condition of bail, three charges of assaulting police officers while in the execution of their duty and a charge of assaulting a procurator fiscal depute in court whilst she was in the execution of her duty.

The sheriff imposed a sentence of three months’ imprisonment in respect of the breach of a special condition of bail, discounted from a headline of four months to reflect the early plea of guilty, the plea being tendered at the first diet.

He imposed a sentence of 30 months’ imprisonment in cumulo discounted from a headline sentence of 40 months in respect of the three assaults on police officers and he ordered that those cumulo sentences should run concurrently with the sentence of 3 months’ imprisonment for the breach of a special condition of bail.

And with regard to the assault on the procurator fiscal depute, which was in charge 9, the sheriff imposed a sentence of 30 months’ imprisonment, discounted from a headline sentence of 40 months to reflect the early plea of guilty, with that sentence to run consecutively to the sentences imposed in respect of the other matters.

The consequence was that the total sentence imposed on the appellant was a period of imprisonment of five years, which reflected a headline sentence in total of six years and eight months.

However, it was argued on behalf of the appellant that the headline sentence in respect of charges 5, 6 and 7, namely the assaults on police officers was excessive; that the headline sentence with regard to charge 9, the assault on the procurator fiscal depute of 40 months was excessive; and that the sheriff had failed to take account of the cumulative effect of his sentences.

It was also submitted that the total headline sentence of 80 months was excessive – particularly having regard to the fact that “no serious injury” was caused.

However, as the sheriff observed in his report to the court, the appeal judges said that anyone who assaults a person who is in the course of performing public duties “should be dealt with seriously and imprisonment will often be appropriate”.

“That applies in particular to assaults on the police who, in the course of protecting the public, have to deal with people who are sometimes violent and dangerous and also deeply unpleasant. It also applies to any assault on a person employed in a court in any capacity because it is essential to the administration of justice that those who work in courts must be able to do their work without fear of retribution,” Lord Menzies said.

He added: “The fact that the complainers were engaged in the performance of public duties was an aggravating factor as was the courtroom locus of the assault on the procurator fiscal depute.”

Refusing the appeal, the judges agreed “wholeheartedly” with the sheriff’s remarks and noted that in addition to the serious aggravations of the assaults, the appellant also had a “very bad record” of previous convictions stretching back to 1994.

Delivering the opinion of the court, Lord Menzies said: “Having regard to all the circumstances, we are not persuaded that the sheriff erred in the assessment of the seriousness of these charges nor that he failed to take account of the cumulative effect of the sentences. We are unable to categorise the total sentence in this case as excessive and accordingly, we refuse this appeal.”

© Scottish Legal News Ltd 2021



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