HMA v Vaughan, McHale and Schruyers

At the High Court in Edinburgh on 5 August 2016, Lady Scott sentenced Robin Vaughan, Joseph McHale and Kevin Schruyers to 11, 12-and-a-half and 13 years imprisonment respectively, after the accused were convicted of breaking into cash machines and stealing £130,000.

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

“You are each members of a criminal gang from Liverpool who travelled to Aberdeenshire with a well-planned and prepared course of conduct whereby in a period between August and September 2013 you sought and on occasions succeeded in blowing up or breaking open automated teller machines or ‘ATMs’ with intent to steal.

This course of conduct was characterised by the same method of operation namely:

  • the targeting of rural cash machines within a small geographical area in Aberdeenshire, with attempts to break open the ATM’s being made over short period of time;
  • all of you travelling up from Liverpool and stealing or obtaining high performance cars or a van as well as equipment and clothing shortly in advance of the attacks;
  • attacking the ATMs in the dead of night in the dark;
  • and the employment on most occasions of the highly unusual and dangerous means of forcing entry by causing or attempting to cause explosions – a means previously unheard of in Scotland.

On two occasions after forcing open ATMs by causing explosions, you successfully stole money which in total amounted to about £130,000.

Robin Vaughan, you pled guilty in the course of the trial:

1) to charge 2 attempting to break into the ATM at the Co-operative store at Mintlaw, I will treat the conviction on this charge as being in same terms as the jury convicted your co-accused, namely attempting to break in with crow bars

2) to charge 9 forcing entry to the ATM at the Royal Bank of Scotland in New Deer by causing an explosion and stealing £21,020

3) and to charge 10 forcing entry to the ATM at the Royal Bank of Scotland in New Deer by causing an explosion and stealing £112,000

Joseph McHale and Kevin Schruyers, you were both convicted by the jury of the same charges as Mr Vaughan but in addition:

1) to charge 15 attempting to cause an explosion and break into the ATM at the Clydesdale Bank in Ellon                                               

2) to charge 22 breaking into the Paul Lawrie Golf Centre shop and stealing items including clothing

3) to charge 24 attempting to cause an explosion and break into the ATM at the Clydesdale Bank Stonehaven

4) to charge 25 attempting to cause an explosion and break into the ATM at the Bank of Scotland Inverurie

5) and to charge 27 forcing entry to the ATM at Lloyds TSB, Old Meldrum Road, Aberdeen by causing an explosion

This course of criminal conduct was clearly well organised, with the raids designed to be repeatedly and rapidly made and your means of attack by gaining entry to the ATM through causing an explosion was obviously dangerous.

The explosions were caused by the use of an improvised hot wire ignitor along with a highly flammable mixture of gases. As a result of the explosions there was evidence of extensive damage to the premises and the ATMs.

The dangerousness of this enterprise is obvious. The expert witness from the fire service indicated that on his examination of the scene in charge 27 he initially viewed the risk to the public to require evacuation of all nearby premises.

I am not surprised to find from the information before me that you are all career criminals with lengthy criminal records which suggest you are well known to each other and you have travelled to different parts of the UK to commit serious crimes.

Mr Vaughan, your pleas of not guilty to the other charges were accepted by the Crown. I do not consider however that your plea had any real plea utilitarian value.  I take into account that you have been convicted to fewer charges than your co-accused.

On the other hand it is clear from the evidence that you played a lead role and directed your co-accused over a period of time. At the time of these offences you were on licence from a prison sentence imposed at Stafford Crown Court.

You are a 43-year-old man with a criminal record which extends over some 23 years – largely involving crimes of dishonesty such as burglary; road traffic offences and possession of drugs. You have also previously offended in Scotland with a conviction from Glasgow High Court in 2000 for theft by housebreaking for which you received two years imprisonment. 

I have taken into account in the sentence I impose the two short periods you have spent in custody in respect of these charges.

Mr McHale, you are 37 years old and have a criminal record which extends over approximately 15 years – largely involving crimes of dishonesty such as burglary and theft. Your speciality appears to be the theft of motor vehicles and the evidence here suggested you were involved amongst other things in obtaining vehicles to commit these offences.

You have previously offended in Scotland with a conviction from the High Court in 2006 for robbery for which you received concurrent sentences of three and five years imprisonment. At the time of some of these offences you were on licence from a sentence for burglary from Carlisle Crown Court.

You have spent approximately 14 weeks in custody on this indictment prior to being remanded on return of the jury’s verdict on 19 May 2016 and I have taken this into account in the sentence I impose.

Mr Schuyers, you are 42 years of age and your criminal record extends over about 20 years – largely involving crimes of dishonesty such as burglary and theft, including theft of motor vehicles.

You too have previously offended in Scotland, with a conviction from the Sheriff Court in Aberdeen in 2004 for thefts by opening lockfast places and convictions from Arbroath Sheriff Court for theft by housebreaking in 2009 for which you received three years. You have three Crown court convictions in 2010 all resulting in prison sentences including a sentence of six years from Liverpool Crown Court for robbery, for which you had been released on licence at the time of these offences.

Mr Vaughan, I sentence you to 11 years imprisonment to run from today.

Mr McHale, I sentence you to 12 years and 6 months imprisonment reduced from 13 years to reflect the period spent in custody backdated to 19 May 2016

Mr Schruyers, I sentence you to 13 years imprisonment backdated to 19May 2016.”

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