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HMA v Aaron McGuire

At the High Court in Glasgow today (19 December 2017) Lord Beckett imposed an extended sentence of 11 years and 6 months (custodial part 7 years and 6 months) on Aaron McGuire after the accused pled guilty to culpable homicide. On sentencing Lord Beckett made the following statement in court:

I have taken account of everything said in mitigation both on 7 November and today. I have considered carefully both of the reports before me. I note in particular that you have expressed remorse which is considered to be genuine and profound by those who have dealt with you.

Whilst you were indicted for murder, your plea of guilty to culpable homicide on the ground of provocation was accepted and I sentence you on that basis. I note that the fatal wound was inflicted to the back of the thigh. You yourself sustained injuries to your head from blows inflicted by the deceased with a beer bottle.  You have not previously been convicted in this court.

I take into account your mental health and the indication that you have suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder since you were the victim of a serious assault in November 2015.

On the other hand, you have admitted a very serious crime. You killed a man aged 39 who had been a generally good friend to you and your family over many years. You did not learn any lesson from four convictions for having weapons in a public place. You have previously been sentenced on indictment for assault to severe injury with an improvised weapon and you have seven other convictions for assault accrued in five further proceedings.

You started the confrontation which led to the death of Mr Gallagher by shouting at him, “I’m doing you.” You were armed with a knife.

It is true that you were struck on the head with a bottle in the course of the fight which developed, and that may have been particularly alarming for you given what has happened to you in the past. The symptoms of your PTSD may have had some part to play in how you reacted. However, Mr Gallagher was a step away from you and moving further away when you stabbed the back of his leg from your position on the ground. You damaged the thigh bone indicating a blow of moderate force. At some stage in the struggle, you had inflicted two further stab wounds, one to the arm and another to the leg. The injury to the arm and another to the deceased’s hand appeared to be defensive injuries caused by resistance to your knife.

It is not mitigating that you were affected by drink and drugs when you assaulted and killed Mr Gallagher. His partner and his daughter, who is just ten years old, have lost him forever because of your wholly unnecessary attack. Once again this court is confronted with a situation where possession of a knife transformed a relatively minor incident into a killing.

In the whole circumstances it is necessary to impose a substantial sentence of imprisonment in order to punish you and to seek to deter you and others who carry knives and use them to inflict serious and fatal injuries.

I have set out the features which I regard as mitigating and I give some effect to them. Nevertheless, there are some significantly aggravating features in this case of culpable homicide, particularly your repeated use of a knife which you carried, and your extensive criminal record for crimes of violence and possession of weapons.

I note also that your criminal record discloses frequent examples of your offending when on bail. You have breached special bail conditions and have failed to attend at court when on bail. You have breached a probation order more than once. You have offended whilst subject to early release.

Having regard to the nature of this crime, your pattern of previous convictions and the terms of the social work report, I am concerned to protect the public from serious harm from you and I am not convinced that the normal period of licence would be sufficient to do that. Accordingly, I am going to pass on you an extended sentence.

Even taking account of provocation and all of the mitigating circumstances, I consider that an appropriate sentence would have been an extended sentence of 14 years including a custodial term of 10 years.  I will allow for your plea of guilty by reducing the custodial term to 7 years and 6 months to be followed by an extension period of 4 years when you will be under licence on conditions fixed by the Scottish Ministers.

If during this extension period you fail to comply with the conditions of your licence it may be revoked and you may be returned to custody for a further period.

This extended sentence of 11 years and 6 months, with a custodial term of 7 years and 6 months, is backdated to 7 July 2017 when you were remanded in custody.