At the High Court in Aberdeen on 16 December 2014, Lady Wolffe sentenced Sean Boyle McDougall to three years and four months imprisonment after the accused pled guilty to stabbing a friend.

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

“Sean Boyle McDougall, you have pled guilty to a very serious charge of assault involving the repeated use of a knife on a man who was known to you and who was a good friend of yours.

On the day in question, you had failed to attend at the place of work in a job secured for you by the complainer. That afternoon, in the company of your mother, he came to find you after work and to find out why you had failed to attend. After an exchange, your mother left expressing her disappointment in you. You took this hard. Thereafter, you and the complainer remained in the flat and drank for a time. Others were also in the flat. There were some confrontations between you in the course of the evening. One of these became physical, starting with punching and pushing. Another person present sought to intervene, but by then you had a knife. You struck the complainer in the upper leg and in his right arm when he tried to defend himself. The complainer left the flat but you followed him. You caught up with him and engaged in further aggression and were seen to use the knife or to attempt to do so, even though the complainer was by now on the ground. When that struggle ended, the complainer, now bleeding heavily, again sought to retreat. You returned to the flat, took a second knife and pursued the complainer. You struck him from behind on the back with this knife. By reason of this attack, the complainer sustained a number of injuries, some of which were serious. The consequences of some of these involved serious medical intervention as the complainer’s life was now in danger. All of this has continued to have an impact on the complainer, as he narrates in his Victim Impact Statement and to which I have had regard. The foregoing discloses a vicious, sustained and repeated attack. Twice when the complainer sought to retreat, you visited further violence upon him. This violence was compounded by the fact that it was committed while you were on bail.

After you pled guilty, I wished to have the benefit of a Criminal Justice Social Work Report. I have had regard to its terms. It narrates a difficult and unsupportive upbringing, consequent issues with low self-esteem and a problem with alcohol abuse. Alcohol contributed to your conduct on the night in question. You now accept the consequences of what you have done and have expressed remorse both to the author of the Report and in the full letter you have also written to the court – and to which I have also had regard.

I have also taken into account your previous convictions. There are five of these, with one of these being a directly analogous offence of assault involving the use of a glass and also committed while on bail.

I have taken into account all that has been said on your behalf in mitigation. The difficult circumstances of your upbringing, low self-esteem, and your remorse, and early plea are urged upon me as factors to take into account.  I do so, and I also take into account your age. It is accepted that a custodial sentence is inevitable. It is urged upon me to impose a short sentence, with a period of supervised release. You have expressed the wish to be a better father and partner on your release. Your partner remains supportive of you.

In the light of all of the information before me, I have considered whether a custodial sentence is appropriate. The crime of which you have been convicted is serious and has the features I have already described. Modern society will not tolerate the escalation of violence and the use of a knife against another, unarmed man. I note that you have not previously served a sentence of imprisonment. You are a young man of just 21 years of age. I am satisfied that in your case the only disposal is one of imprisonment – as indeed your representative accepted. I do not accept that a supervised release order, coupled with a shorter sentence, would be appropriate.

Having regard to the nature of the crime to which you have pled guilty, your past record and what has been said on your behalf, the sentence I impose is one of five years. I shall attribute six months of that to the bail aggravation. By reason of the early plea, I shall reduce this to 40 months of imprisonment. This is to be backdated to the point when you were first taken into custody on this matter, namely 15th August 2014.”