HMA v Robert Coleman

At the High Court in Edinburgh today, 12 June 2017, Lady Scott sentenced Robert Coleman to two years and eight months imprisonment after the accused pled guilty to assaulting Stephen Haggerty to his severe injury and to the danger of his life by driving a car at him.

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

“Robert Coleman, you have pled guilty to deliberately driving your car at your victim at speed and striking him on the body whereby he was thrown high into the air, landing back on the windscreen. You then braked sharply and your victim was thrown off and against a wall.

To deliberately drive a car at anyone and at speed is a serious act of violence and obviously endangers life.

I accept there was a background here which gives some explanation for your conduct.

A history of mistreatment of your mother by the victim, on the day in question you were told by your mother he had battered her and finding the victim in the street there was an exchange with the victim in the street where he issued threats and according to you that included a threat with a knife.

But this assault was not an instantaneous reaction – whereby you acted under provocation.  I cannot accept this was a split second decision.

The fact is, as shown clearly on the CCTV footage, your victim had turned and walked away. You drove slowly behind him following him for some distance until you were level and then you aimed your car at him whilst accelerating so that you deliberately struck him at speed.  

I accept that in the course of that acceleration you then sought to slow down. But he was still struck.

You still hit your victim at speed and he was tossed high into the air.

He sustained severe injuries with numerous fractures, including three fractures to his spine which required surgery.

It is very fortunate the injuries sustained were not more serious.

I have considered carefully the strong mitigation from your personal circumstances here.

I accept that this conduct was wholly out of character. You appear here aged 28 years as a first offender.

You are family man and you are a support to your mother. You have a stable relationship with your partner and you are a positive father figure to her child as well as to your own son.

I have had regard to the many testimonials and notably submissions from the victim for leniency.

I accept too you have remorse and you have pled guilty at an early stage.

But this was a very serious, deliberate and dangerous assault. I have concluded it necessitates a custodial sentence.

I will exercise leniency and considerably reduce the length of sentence I would otherwise imposed having regard to your generally good character; that it is unlikely you will re-offend and your early plea.

I sentence you to 32 months reduced from four years’ imprisonment, to reflect you early plea.”