HMA v Niall Dinsmore

At the High Court in Edinburgh today, 26 October 2016, Lord Boyd of Duncansby sentenced Niall Dinsmore to five years imprisonment after the accused pled guilty to being in possession of firearms and being in possession of offensive weapons.

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

“Niall Dinsmore, on 31 August 2015 you arrived at Edinburgh Airport with five stun guns and five batons in your luggage. The stun guns were disguised as torches.

You had purchased these items on holiday in Bulgaria. You intended to keep one of the stun guns and give presents of a stun gun and a baton each to a number of family and friends.

It’s not clear to me what possessed you to think that these would be suitable presents, particularly since anyone accepting your gift would themselves be committing a serious offence.

On charge 2, in terms of section 51A of the Firearms Act 1968 I am obliged to impose a minimum sentence of five years imprisonment unless I am of the opinion that there are exceptional circumstances relating to the offence or to you which would justify me in not doing so. I have considered this matter carefully.

You appear before me as a first offender though I note from the probation report that you have a number of convictions for road traffic offences. I agree with the author of the report that these convictions may show a degree of recklessness and poor decision making on your part but for present purposes I do not regard them as significant.

I have read the references submitted on your behalf. It is clear that you are well regarded in the community and by friends, family and your employer.

You have a good work record. You have recently discovered that you are the father of a young child and you are attempting to establish a relationship with her. You have been in a stable relationship for seven years with a woman who is now your fiancé.

You pled guilty at an early stage. You are ashamed and embarrassed and you evidenced a significant degree of remorse and regret for your actions. You are assessed as a low risk of re-offending.

While these personal circumstances are all in your favour on their own I do not regard them as being exceptional.

So far as the offence is concerned the following matters seem to be relevant.

You purchased five stun guns along with five batons in Bulgaria. They were freely on sale and it is not illegal to own one in Bulgaria. The stun guns are not lethal weapons but a full blast can leave someone dazed.

You knew that the stun guns were dangerous and you knew that what you were doing was wrong. However you did not appreciate how serious an offence you were committing.

When you came through customs you answered the officer’s question as to whether you possessed any of the prohibited items truthfully. You did not attempt to hide the weapons.

You intended to retain one of the stun guns for yourself and put it on display. The others would be given as gifts to friends and family along with one of the batons each.

In considering whether there are exceptional circumstances that would justify me in not imposing the minimum sentence I require to look at all of the circumstances that I have outlined above. Having done so I have concluded that there are no exceptional circumstances in your case.

The first issue is the number of stun guns involved. This was not a single purchase as a souvenir for yourself. You bought five of them. Not only that but you purchased five other weapons, namely the batons.

 I accept that the stun gun is not in ordinary circumstances lethal but you intended on your account to gift a stun gun and a baton to a chosen few. Together these are weapons of considerable potency.

Your intentions so far as the stun gun that you were going to retain may have been benign. You may also have thought that the recipients of the stun guns, if they kept them, would not use them.

However you were putting them beyond your control. You could not know whether these would have ended up in the hands of those who would use them for more sinister purposes.

Finally while you may not have appreciated the seriousness of what you were doing you knew it was wrong. That fact alone distinguishes this case from many of the cases cited to me where the accused did not know that what he was doing was illegal.

Accordingly while I accept that there is much to be said for you in mitigation it does not amount to exceptional circumstances.

I should say that even if I was not bound by the terms of section 51A, I would have considered that only a custodial sentence was appropriate. In that event I would have taken as a starting point three years imprisonment and applied the appropriate discount.

Accordingly on charge 2 you will go to prison for five years.

On charge 4 the sentence is one of 18 months imprisonment, discounted from two years for the early plea.

On charge 5 the sentence is six months imprisonment discounted from eight months.

These sentences will be concurrent and from today’s date.”