HMA v BRIAN MARTIN

At the High Court in Edinburgh today, 7 July 2014, Lord Boyd of Duncansby sentenced Brian Martin to a total of eight years and six months imprisonment after he was found guilty of wilful fire-raising and admitted a charge of failing to appear for an earlier hearing.

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

“Brian Martin, you were found guilty after trial at the Sheriff Court in Dundee of wilful fire-raising. The Sheriff remitted the case to this court as he considered that his powers of sentencing were insufficient to deal with you. He was right to do so. 

On 25 April 2012 you set fire to an area in the storage cupboard under the basement stairs of the tenement at 14 Garland Place, Dundee. There are, as you would know 10 flats in the block and the staircase is of wooden construction. It is clear that the fire took hold quickly. The Sheriff tells me in his report that a fire officer who was early on the scene found eight or nine residents at their windows seeking rescue. Another officer, James Ingram, entered the building on foot wearing breathing apparatus to determine the seat of the fire and direct operations. As he did so the staircase to the basement collapsed and he fell a distance of about eight feet. He was injured and required to be rescued. He was off work for six weeks. Two residents gave evidence. It is apparent from the Sheriff’s report that they considered themselves to be in real danger. One of them lost a dog in the fire. 

This was a wicked crime. You put the residents of this building in real and substantial danger for their lives. One can only imagine the fear and terror that they went through as they waited for rescue. Apart from the very substantial damage to the building people will have lost possessions and been displaced from their residences. Fire and emergency services were also placed at real risk by your criminal behaviour. 

I have considered everything that Ms Prais has said on your behalf. The CJSWR does not make encouraging reading. I note that you do not accept your guilt. 

You clearly have a problem with alcohol and drug misuse. You have had an itinerant lifestyle sleeping rough. Your record discloses crimes of dishonesty, drugs offences, public disorder and lack of compliance with court conditions. These have been dealt with by community disposals or short periods of custody. Your lifestyle choices, as Ms Prais puts it, have so far been disastrous for you and the rest of the community. You show little direction in life and other than short periods of employment have made little contribution to society. 

Ms Prais tells me that that has now changed. You have expressed a desire to address your alcohol and substance misuse and to gain some education. Your family is standing by you. I take into account that while you have a record of offending, you have no analogous convictions. I am prepared to accept these positive indications that you wish to turn your life around. Nevertheless this was a very serious offence and merits a substantial custodial sentence.

On charge 1 you will go to prison for eight years. On charge 3 you will go to prison for six months. The sentences will be consecutive and be backdated to 3 February 2014.”