Judicial Institute - Publications

Jury Manual 2018

Annual Report 2017-18

National Curriculum for Justices of the Peace

Equal Treatment Bench Book

The aim of the Equal Treatment Bench Book is to offer assistance and advice to judges who have to ensure that all who come before the courts are dealt with in an understanding and sensitive fashion regardless of their personal backgrounds. It includes advice on issues arising on sexual orientation and gender identity as these are areas which are capable of misunderstanding and misconception.  It is therefore desirable that judges should have as clear an understanding of this topic as is possible.

Apart from all of the foregoing there are other circumstances, regardless of questions of ethnicity or sexual orientation and gender identity, in which some of those who come before the courts may be at a disadvantage when compared with other court users. They may have a physical or mental disability; they may be children; they may have been the victims of, or have been associated with, domestic abuse; they may be witnesses who, for whatever reason, are apprehensive about the prospect of appearing in court; or they may have to, or may choose to, conduct court proceedings in person without the benefit of legal representation. All require to be dealt with in a sensitive and understanding manner. 

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HMA v James Allan

At the High Court in Edinburgh today, 1 February 2017, Lord Boyd of Duncansby imposed an extended sentence of 17 years imprisonment on James Allan after the accused pled guilty to two charges of attempted murder and one contravention of the Firearms Act. The custodial part will be 12 years followed by an extension period of five years on licence.

On sentencing, Lord Boyd made the following statement in court:

“James Allan, you have pleaded guilty to two charges of attempted murder and one contravention of the Firearms Act. On 27 June last year, while you had your face masked, you fired a sawn off shotgun at Craig Burns and James McSorley.

The pellets hit both of them requiring hospital treatment. Mr Burns lost the sight in one eye.

I have been informed that this came about as a result of others knowing how to inspire you to take action. You apparently had a grudge against Mr McSorley over allegations of sexual assault and insults directed towards your sister.

Whether that is true or not is immaterial. The fact is that you armed yourself, whether at your own initiative or at the behest of others, and went in search of Mr McSorley.

This was a planned attack using a lethal weapon.

The criminal justice social work report (CJSWR) informs me that you regard yourself, and have a reputation as an ‘enforcer’ in the community.

It should be well understood that the only enforcement that will be tolerated in a law abiding community are the forces of law and order including the courts. Those that take the law into their own hands cannot expect any sympathy from the courts.

I take into account everything that has been said. I note that you have not been convicted in the High Court before. I take into account your apparent remorse and the fact that you are apparently appalled at your actions.

Nevertheless the sentence that I pass must reflect the danger that you pose to the public and act as a deterrent to others who may feel tempted to take the law into their own hands or act their feuds through violence in our streets.

I am also satisfied that any custodial sentence I could pass would be insufficient to protect the public from serious harm.

I reach that conclusion based on the nature of these offences involving a firearm, your previous convictions and the terms of the CJSWR.

In particular I note the assessment of risk, your apparent disregard for the law, the increasing intensity and severity of offending and your apparent belief that you have a reputation to maintain in the community.

Accordingly the sentence I will pass will provide that on your release you will be subject to supervision for an extended period of time.

In respect of charges 1 and 2, I shall impose a cumulo extended sentence of 17 years of which 12 shall be the custodial part and five shall be the extended period. Had you been convicted after trial I would have imposed a custodial sentence of 15 years imprisonment in respect of these charges.

On charge 4 the sentence is one of five years six months, discounted from seven years to run concurrently with the sentences on charges 1 and 2. The sentences shall be backdated to 14 July 2016.”