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HMA v Sean Barclay

At the High Court in Glasgow today, 26 March 2019, Lord Arthurson sentenced Sean Barclay to eight years’ imprisonment after the accused pled guilty to firearms offences and theft.

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

“Sean Barclay, you have today at a continued preliminary hearing tendered pleas of guilty to two charges on one indictment, comprising theft by breaking in to the Army Cadet Building at Newport-on-Tay and thereafter having in your possession at the Cadet Building and in various places in that area the firearms libelled which were among the items which you had stolen from the said Cadet Building, contrary to the Firearms Act 1968 section 5(1)(a) as amended. You have further tendered a plea of guilty to another single charge indictment comprising a related contravention of section 21(2) and (4) of the 1968 Act.

“You, at the age of 28, have to date accrued 36 groups of previous convictions and served 17 custodial sentences.  Four of these convictions were at indictment level, three of these involving weapons, including knives, and I note in particular that you received a two-year sentence of imprisonment in 2012 for assault to injury and attempted robbery with a knife.

“The gravity of the offences for which the court must sentence you today is such that only a very substantial custodial disposal can be considered appropriate. Your offending in this case plainly required in my view a significant level of planning and could well have resulted in a significant degree of risk of serious harm to the public at large in due course.

“I have listened with care to what has been said on your behalf in the course of your counsel’s submissions in mitigation and take into account everything that has been drawn to my attention concerning in particular your personal circumstances and background of homelessness and continuing drug misuse on release from your most recent custodial sentence.

“Your counsel further submitted cogently on your behalf that exceptional circumstances exist which could permit the court to depart from the minimum sentencing provisions which Parliament has laid down in respect to the offending which in your case is captured within the libel of charge two on the first indictment.

“In developing this submission, your counsel noted that, as seen, the drill purpose rifles in question here were not capable of firing rounds, and indeed that the component parts thereof which engage the minimum sentencing provisions in your case were similarly incapable, albeit that they could of course, as your counsel put matters, be used as spare parts or components within an SA80 assault rifle. A submission was also advanced related to your state of knowledge concerning the status of the firearms as drill rifles, or training props, about which in fact you were correct.

“I have reached the view that these submissions on exceptionality, while helpful and well-focussed, are not determinative of this matter.

“Taking a holistic approach to the circumstances libelled and to your own circumstances, and bearing in mind that cases in which exceptional circumstances will be found to exist are indeed rare and exceptional, I accept that the features founded on by your counsel can be characterised as mitigatory in this exercise, but that there are significant aggravating features which taken together with those mitigatory features mean that I require in your case to reject your counsel’s contention on exceptionality.

“In particular, I note the circumstances in which the firearms were acquired, by breaking in to the Cadet Building, which was ransacked by you during that criminal act; the purpose for which you sought to use these items, namely for selling them on to fund your drug misuse; and the circumstances in which you disposed temporarily of the firearms, by stealth and carefully planned concealment in a rural area by a farm track. I further note your criminal record which I have already sought to summarise and which your own counsel has accepted as an aggravating feature in your case.

“I accordingly now turn to sentence. The extremely serious nature of the offending on the indictments before the court today, taken in the context of your extensive criminal record, in respect of which these offences undoubtedly represent a considerable and deeply concerning escalation, remain very much at the forefront of the court’s consideration of sentence in your case and I propose therefore to sentence you on these indictments as follows:

“On the first indictment, on charge one you will serve a period of imprisonment of three years, discounted from a period of four years due to the timing of your plea of guilty, and on charge 2 you will serve consecutively a period of imprisonment of five years, which is the minimum period prescribed under the Firearms Act for the offence libelled in that charge, and which at that level cannot be discounted.  

“On the second indictment, you will serve a concurrent period of imprisonment of three years, discounted from a period of four years due to the timing of your plea. These sentences will be backdated to 21 February 2019, being the date since which you have been remanded in custody solely in respect of these offences.

“You will therefore, as a result of this sentencing exercise today, serve a total period of eight years’ imprisonment, backdated to 21 February 2019.”