HMA v Christopher Hutchison

At the High Court in Glasgow today, 6 March 2018, Lady Rae imposed an extended sentence of 12 years on Christopher Hutchison, the accused having pleaded guilty to culpable and reckless conduct, assaulting a police officer by firing a crossbow at him, and wilful fire-raising. The custodial part will be eight years, which will be followed by an extended period of four years on licence.

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

“Christopher Hutchison, you have pleaded guilty to a number of crimes which put the public, including members the emergency services, at serious risk of injury if not death.

“Hiding from view within your house you repeatedly fired bolts from a crossbow which is, by any standard, a lethal weapon. You knew very well that there were police officers outside your house when you acted as you did.

“These officers were there merely to exercise their proper authority to arrest you in connection with an unrelated matter but you held them at bay for about four hours, in what I would describe as siege conditions. Local schools were effectively placed in lockdown for safety reasons. 

“You injured one officer, fortunately not seriously, but it is obvious that you did not care whom you might injure. Not satisfied with that, you set fire to your house, without any thought of the potential risk to the lives of neighbours.  

“It is asserted you were grieving the recent death of your father with whom you lived at the locus of these events but that is no excuse for what you did. You voluntarily consumed alcohol and drugs. That in my view is an aggravation of these crimes.

“Another significant aggravating factor is that, at the time of these offences, you were on early release from a previous prison sentence, imposed for culpable and reckless conduct when you threw items of furniture and other articles from a first floor window at police officers in the street. 

“You have an appalling record of convictions, libeling 45 separate offences, including convictions for carrying and using weapons, repeatedly contravening the Police (Scotland) Act 1967, public disorder offences and convictions for violence. 

“I shall have regard to all that was said in mitigation and I note that you have expressed remorse and an apology to police officers through your counsel, but that has to be considered in the context of what you said to the social worker who prepared the criminal justice social work report now before me, namely, that you place some blame and responsibility on the police for what happened. Let me be clear it is you and you alone who are responsible for such reprehensible conduct.

“I have read carefully the contents of the background report and I note the risk assessment, part of which suggests that you present ‘at a maximum risk of re-offending’ and that were you ‘to re-offend the level of harm is likely to be high’.

“Having regard to that assessment together with the very serious nature of these charges, your significant record of previous convictions and the serious risk which you obviously present to the public, I intend to impose an extended sentence. 

“You have been in custody since 26 October 2017. I calculate that period as approximately 132 days. The unexpired portion of your sentence is seven months and five days. Taking account of your period on remand I shall re-impose only part of the unexpired portion all in terms section 16 of the Prisoners and Criminal Proceedings (Scotland) Act 1993. That period will be 75 days which will date from today. 

“Consecutive to that period I shall impose a cumulo sentence, namely, an extended sentence with a custodial part of eight years which I have discounted by one third, having regard to your early plea. The headline custodial part would have been 12 years but for the early plea.

“I propose to extend that sentence by a further four years post release supervision in view of the serious risk you present to the public in general but also the risk you present to emergency workers such as the police.”