3 September 2019
The full court opinion is available here
In this case, the Sheriff Appeal Court issued guidance for courts on the approach to take when imposing a compensation requirement as part of a community payback order (CPO), or a compensation order, when the accused has pled guilty at an early stage of proceedings.
In particular the case is about whether courts should in those circumstances reduce (discount) the amount of compensation to be paid, and if so whether the compensation should attract the same level of discount as other types of sentence.
The first two charges covered behaviour at his home address. He pled guilty to behaving in a threatening or abusive manner towards a paramedic by shouting and swearing at him and threatening him with violence, and then spitting on him.
He also pled guilty to a third charge in terms of which, at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, he shouted and swore at police officers, directed sexual and sectarian comments towards them, and struggled violently with them, an offence which was aggravated by religious prejudice.
The unpaid work requirement was discounted from 200 hours due to the fact that the accused pled guilty at the intermediate diet. However, the court did not apply any discount to the compensation requirement.
When imposing a CPO courts can, as part of that order, impose what is called a “compensation requirement”.
Courts also have a separate power to impose what is called a “compensation order”.
These can be in respect of any personal injury, loss, damage, alarm, or distress caused to the victim.
In both cases the court decides on a sum of money as the appropriate level of compensation. The accused is required to pay this amount, either by instalments or in a lump sum, to the clerk of the court where the sentence was imposed. The clerk of court then passes the money on to the victim.
In addition, when an accused pleads guilty, courts are required by law to take into account the stage at which the guilty plea was made when deciding what sentence to impose. This allows courts to consider reducing the sentence to recognise the saving in time and resources which follow on a guilty plea. This is normally known as a “discount”.
For example, in this case the court which imposed the sentence discounted the number of unpaid hours which the accused had to perform by 25%, because he pled guilty before the trial. But the court did not discount the compensation requirement.
The accused appealed the level of the compensation requirement imposed as part of the sentence, and the Sheriff Appeal Court considered whether the compensation requirement should have been the subject of a discount in the same way as the unpaid work requirement.
The Sheriff Appeal Court decided that:
It was decided that the sentence given to the accused was therefore correct, and his appeal was refused.