HMA v MICHAEL NELSON

At the High Court in Edinburgh today, 10 June 2014, Lady Wolffe sentenced Michael Nelson to seven years in prison after he was convicted of two charges of rape.

On sentencing, Lady Wolffe made the following statement in court:

“Michael Nelson, you have been convicted of two charges of rape, contrary to section 1 of the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009.

The charges related to events occurring over the course of two days, commencing with your visit to the flat of the woman (the complainer) whom you have now been convicted of raping. You attended her flat, uninvited, to demand payment of a drug debt said to have been owed by her to another person. You threatened her with certain consequences, including violence, if she did not repay this debt or submit to oral sex with you. At that time, the complainer was at a low point in her life and very vulnerable by reason of her drug abuse. You remained in the flat, or in her company, for most of the next 24 hours. During that time you carried out the two rapes, one of oral penetration and later one of vaginal penetration, in the complainer’s own flat. By reason of the complainer’s vulnerability and the threat you had made to her, the complainer felt that she had no choice other than to submit to these instances of sexual assault and which in law amounted to rape. Thereafter, you remained in the complainer’s flat overnight, until the police attended the next morning.

The experience was an extremely distressing one for the complainer, taking place as it did in her own home, extending over a period of nearly 24 hours and occurring at time when the complainer was extremely vulnerable. It is to her credit that she has sought to address her drug abuse and to rebuild her life since your attack upon her.

You have numerous previous convictions, mostly at sheriff court summary level, for crimes of dishonesty, public disorder, road traffic offences, drug related offences and failure to attend for Court orders. However, you also have three significant convictions on indictment for violence. The most recent of these was in Glasgow High Court in 2008 for assault to severe injury. This was aggravated by permanent disfigurement and danger to life. There was also a conviction for a fire arms offence at the same time.

At the conclusion of your trial, your Counsel asked me to sentence you immediately. I wished to have the benefit of a Criminal Justice Social Work Report. I have now considered its terms. Among other things, that Report notes that you continue to deny responsibility for the two sexual assaults you carried out. It also notes that you pose a medium risk for further involvement in this kind of behaviour. Your defence counsel has specifically asked me to take this level of risk into account, together with your personal circumstances, and the drug dealing and drug abuse which formed the unhappy context for the offending conduct.

I have taken into account all that has been said on your behalf, as well as the assessment of risk made in the Criminal Justice Social Work Report in respect of this type of conduct.

You gave evidence at your trial and you continue to deny the criminal conduct of which you have been convicted. As a consequence, you have expressed no remorse for the wrong you have done or the harm you have caused.

The crimes of which you have been convicted are very serious and have the features I have already described. Society has an abhorrence of such conduct and it is the responsibility of the Court to reflect that. It is important that those who might be disposed to commit crimes of rape against a vulnerable woman, in her own home, in the way that you did, understand that they are likely to receive significant custodial penalties once brought to justice. I am satisfied that in your case, there is no appropriate alternative disposal to one of imprisonment.

I have already made an order that you be subject to the notification requirements of the Sexual Offences Act 2003. In the light of the sentence I am about to impose, that requirement will be continued for an indefinite period of time. The clerk of court will provide you with a notice of the requirements with which you must comply.

The two charges arose out of a single, albeit extended, course of conduct. Accordingly, I propose to impose a single sentence in respect of the two charges (charges two and six) of which you have been convicted.

Having regard to the nature of the crimes of which you have been convicted, your past record and what has been said on your behalf, the sentence I impose is one of seven years.

The sentence will be backdated to the date on which you were first detained in custody upon committal for further examination, namely 10 October 2013.”

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