HMA v Robert McPhee, James McPhee, Steven McPhee, John Miller

At the High Court in Glasgow today, 15 March 2018, Lady Stacey sentenced Robert McPhee, James McPhee, Steven McPhee and John Miller to a total of 29 years imprisonment after they were found guilty of a campaign of kidnappings, violence and intimidation towards workers. On sentencing Lady Stacey made the following statement in court:

“I will begin by making some remarks which apply to all of you and then I will deal with each person separately.

“The evidence in the case showed that people who had problems of homelessness, or alcohol dependency, or mental health issues, were used by you to carry out work; most of them lived in caravans supplied by you. You did not treat them properly.

“In some cases there was violence over a long period. In others there was abduction, forcing people away from their families and forcing them to work for you.

“The jury convicted three of you of serious offences and one of you pled guilty to assault. These are all serious matters. The evidence showed an attitude from you of being able to tell these people what to do, where to live and of backing up your instructions with violence.

“Counsel have submitted that the relationship between you and at least some of the people was sophisticated and complicated. It is said there was friendship and that people who gave evidence that they were assaulted or abducted did at times return voluntarily to you to work.

“I accept that is so on the evidence. The relationship might be seen as strange, but the fact is that you have either been convicted by the jury, or have pled guilty, to a number of assaults and abductions.

“The time referred to in the indictment is a long period. There are several different complainers. Some may have been more affected by what you did than others. Some had other difficulties in their lives.

“My purpose today is not to put a value on the damage you caused but rather to consider the criminal offences of which you have either pled guilty or been found guilty of.

“In deciding on sentence I have to bear in mind the total picture as presented by the evidence. And I have to bear in mind the total sentence which is appropriate. All prison sentences served concurrently and will be back dated to 20 March 2017.

Robert McPhee, I take into account your record of 12 convictions which are all in the district or sheriff court but which do include possession of a weapon. I also take into account your age and your state of health. 

“I note from the report prepared for me that you maintain a denial of the charges despite being convicted by the jury. Even after hearing the evidence being given you are not prepared to accept that you used violence against vulnerable people and caused them a great deal of harm and suffering.

“You do not accept that you preyed on people who had problems including homelessness and that you abducted some of them and brought them back to work for you and you were violent towards them. You were very violent to these people. Much of the evidence was shocking in describing the level of violence you used.

“I am going deal with each charge separately but I will order that sentences of imprisonment are served concurrently, as I am bound to have regard to the total time which you deserve to serve.

“I am also going to impose an extended sentence because I find that despite your age you present a serious risk of further offending after release and therefore you should be subject to supervision and return to prison if you commit further offences or do not co-operate with supervision.

“I will deal now with each charge.

Charge 1: assault, from 1 November 1993 to 31 December 2003, on Brian McEwan to his severe injury and permanent disfigurement. This was a long period, 10 years, in which you assaulted a very vulnerable man on a regular basis. I impose a sentence of imprisonment of nine years.

“Charge 7: assault along with James McPhee on John Anderson on one occasion to severe injury. This was a particularly sickening attack on a defenceless man who tried to get away from your son but was abducted and detained by him and brought to you. He was told by your son that he needed to meet you and be taught a lesson. You and your son acted together in giving him a severe beating. I impose a sentence of imprisonment of eight years.

“Charge 8: assault, from 1992 to 2007, on James Keith by punching him on the head and body and kicking him on the on body to injury. This was a series of assaults over a long period of years. I impose a sentence of imprisonment of seven years.

“Charge 9: on one occasion between 1992 and 1994, you abducted James Keith from Bell St Hostel and detained him at Rodney Street. This is a charge of abduction from a hostel, of a young homeless man. I regard it as very serious that you should go to a hostel for homeless people and seek this man out and force him to accompany you. I impose a sentence of imprisonment of seven years.

“Charge 14: assault, from 1 January 2000 to 31 December 2006, on Benjamin McPhilemy to injury. This was a series of assaults on a vulnerable young man who had mental health problems following army service, and who had a serious drink problem. I impose a sentence of imprisonment of       five years.

“Charge 16: on one occasion you did assault James Milton to injury. This was an assault on a man who was doing his best to carry out work but you were not happy with his work and you were violent towards him. I impose a sentence of imprisonment of 18 months.

“Charge 20: assault, from 29 November 2011 to 13 September 2014, on Graeme Lamb to severe injury and permanent disfigurement. This was a series of assaults over nearly three years against a man who was vulnerable and who was doing his best to carry out work. Not only did you punch his head and body and damage his ears, but you also locked him in a shed as punishment. You acted very cruelly. I impose a sentence of imprisonment of eight years.

“Charge 21: on one occasion between September and November 2013 you did abduct Graeme Lamb and Danielle Ford. This is a charge of abduction of a vulnerable and naïve couple, the man being the person in the previous charge. You knew they were trying to escape to her family in England but you made them go with you from the train station and you then split them up, sending her away and keeping him. I impose a sentence of imprisonment of seven years.

“Charge 22: on various occasions from 2011 to 2014 you did keep Graeme Lamb in servitude contrary to section 47 (1) (a) of the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010. This is a statutory charge of keeping the person referred to in the last charge in servitude. The jury found you guilty of forcing him to work for little or no pay, and holding him against his will. You exerted your influence over him by the violence you had already used on him and by assaulting and abducting him and putting in a shed. For nearly three years he felt powerless to leave. This is a very serious charge. I impose an extended sentence of     12 years in which the custodial portion is 10 years and the extended portion is two years. 

“Charge 24: on one occasion between January 2012 and 31 12 2013 you slapped Danielle Ford on the face. I accept you did not mean to hit Danielle Ford, but to hit her partner instead. In all the circumstances I admonish you on this charge.                        

“Charge 25: on one occasion in 2011 you assaulted Thomas Kenny. This was an older man, an ex-soldier lived rough when not in one of the caravans you had access to. You punched him because he wanted to go into Glasgow for the day. That illustrates your propensity to use violence against people who worked for you. I impose a sentence of imprisonment of 18 months.

“Charge 27: on various occasions you assaulted Kieran Williams to injury. This was a young man who worked for your son-in-law and lived on the site where you lived for a matter of months. He had mental health issues. During his time there you hit him and slapped him. Once again this illustrates the way you treated people over whom you had power. I impose a sentence of imprisonment of two years.

“Charge 28: on one occasion in December 2016 you did abduct Kieran Williams and assault her to her injury. When the young man in the last charge tried to get away, you and your son-in-law went to York to fetch him back and you forced him to return against his will. This is another chilling example of the way in which you treated people who came to work for you, although on the evidence I accept that this person worked for your son-in-law and I regard him as playing the major part in the abduction.  I impose a sentence of imprisonment of five years.

“Charge 29: between 1 November 2016 and 3 December 2016, you held Kieran Williams in servitude contrary to the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act 2015 Act section 4(1)(a). The young man in the last charge was held in servitude and because it was in 2016 it is a different Act of Parliament from the previous one, and Parliament increased the maximum penalty showing how serious this crime is. Taking into account the relatively short period I impose a sentence of imprisonment of seven years.   

“I will grant the application made by the Crown under the 2015 Act section 17, being satisfied as to its terms.

 

James McPhee, in your case I take into account your record of previous convictions, which include a sheriff and jury conviction for assault to injury and a High Court conviction for assault to severe injury, permanent disfigurement and danger to life, for which you received an extended sentence of seven years.

“I have read all that is said about that conviction in the report. I understand that you maintain your innocence of these charges despite the jury’s decisions. As I have said to your father, even after hearing the evidence being given you are not prepared to accept that you used violence against vulnerable people and caused them a great deal of harm and suffering.

“You do not accept that you preyed on people who had problems including homelessness and that you abducted some of them and brought them back to work for you and you did not treat them properly. You were very violent to these people. Much of the evidence was shocking in describing the level of violence you used.

“Charge 4: from June 1998 to December 2006, the assault of John Anderson to severe injury, including making him fight others. This was a man who was vulnerable due to being homeless, as you knew. He came to work with you but you did not treat him properly. You assaulted him for a period of years by punching and kicking and using a pick axe handle to strike him. Something broke his spirit. You forced him to fight with other men. I impose a sentence of imprisonment of nine years.

“Charge 6: on one occasion, in September 1999, breach of the peace by going to Paisley and forcing John Anderson into a car. This is a charge of causing a breach of the peace by going to find the man in the last charge after he had got away and compelling him to return. Such actions shows the way in which you regarded this man…someone you could force to come and work with you and live away from his family. I impose a sentence of imprisonment of seven years. 

“Charge 7: on one occasion between 1999 and 2006, you did abduct John Anderson and bring him to Larkhall from Cambridge while acting with Robert McPhee, assault him, then acting alone take him to Bathgate and put him in a shed, all to his severe injury. This charge concerns the same man. You went to Cambridge and abducted him bringing him back to Scotland. You then took him to your father and joined with your father in giving him a severe beating, having told him it was time to meet your father and be taught a lesson. You then took him from Larkhall to Bathgate and assaulted him and put him into a shed. This is a very serious charge. You acted cruelly towards that man. You present a risk to the public. I impose a sentence of imprisonment, being an extended sentence of 12 years, being nine custodial and three extended.

“Charge 10: on various occasions between 1992 and 2007, you did assault James Keith to his severe injury, including locking him in a shed. This charge involves a man who was a teenager and homeless when he first met you. He worked with you over many years, but you did not treat him properly. You assaulted him by punching and kicking and using poles to strike him. I am aware he came back to work with you, but you were convicted of assault to severe injury. I impose a sentence of imprisonment of nine years.

“Charge 13: on two occasions from 1999 to 2003, you assaulted Christina Anderson by punching her on the head, to injury.  You assaulted this woman when she came to stay with her husband. You lost your temper and punched her on separate occasions. I impose a sentence of imprisonment of two years.

“Charge 17: on one occasion between 1998 and 2001, you assaulted William Milton by punching and kicking him on the head and body to his injury. This charge relates to another man who worked for you and who suffered violence at your hands over a period of three years. In this charge you were found guilty of punching and kicking him on the head and body. I impose a sentence of imprisonment of 18 months.

“Charge 18: on various occasions between 1998 and 2001, you assault William Milton by punching and kicking him on the body to his injury. This relates to the same man but over a longer period of time. I impose a sentence of imprisonment of two years.

“Charge 19: on one occasion from 1998 to 2001, you abducted William Milton, force him into a car, and assault him, all to his injury.  This charge relates to the same man and you were found guilty of abducting him, forcing him into a car, and taking him back to work for you. You also put him into a shed. Once again it illustrates the cruel way in which you treated men who worked for you. I impose a sentence of imprisonment of eight years.

Steven McPhee, charge 15: you pled guilty to various occasions between January 2000 and December 2006 to assault on Benjamin McPhilemy, [repeatedly] punch him on the head and body and on one occasion strike him on the head and body with a brush slab and pick axe handle, all to his severe injury.

“You pled guilty to this charge of assault on a man who was vulnerable. He had been in the army and suffered mental health problems and had a drink problem. Over a period of years he worked for you and you were violent towards him. You were angry when he damaged your van which he was driving. That is no excuse for assaulting him.

“I have read all that is written about you in the criminal justice social work report and I appreciate that these events occurred before you were imprisoned in 2009. I am told you made good use of your time in prison to gain some insight into why you resorted to violence and to take various practical courses of education and training.

“Nevertheless this still a serious matter and I do not find a community disposal suitable. You have an extensive record and it does include a High court conviction for violence. Your conduct towards the complainer in this charge was violent and I have decided that I must impose a period of imprisonment. I understand that you were prepared to plead guilty at an early stage and so I will allow a discount as I am obliged to do. You will be imprisoned for three years, reduced from four-and-a-half years.

John Miller, charge 28: on one occasion in December 2016 you did abduct Kieran Williams, force him into a car and detain him, all to his injury.

“I take into account your record which is lengthy and includes a conviction in England for threatening behaviour and one in Scotland for abduction. I note that was a sheriff and jury case, and I note that the court deferred sentence then admonished you.  I accept from counsel that is unusual, and he tells me it did not relate to a worker. It is however a charge of abduction. 

“I understand that you maintain your position at trial and do not accept guilt. This charge involved you going to York and forcing a vulnerable young man who had mental health issues to come back to Scotland with you against his will.

“The jury listened, as I did, to the tape of your phone calls which was chilling. The jury did not accept your explanation that you were angry because he had asked you to come and get him and then he wanted to spend more time in England and wasted your time.

“You said in evidence that you were very angry that he said he was working or going to work for another family. That was an illustration of how you treated him; you felt entitled to tell him what to do and force him to come back to Scotland.

“I regard this as a very serious charge. You took the major part in threatening the complainer with extreme violence if he did not come back with you. You present a risk to the public and require supervision after release. I impose an extended sentence of nine years; six custodial and three extended.

“Charge 29: along with Robert McPhee you kept Kieran Williams in servitude, contrary to section 4(1)(a) of the 2015 Act. This is a very serious matter. The jury found you guilty of forcing him to work for little or no pay, and holding him against his will. In light of period of months over which it happened I impose a sentence of imprisonment of seven years.

“I will grant the application made by the Crown under the 2015 Act section 17, being satisfied as to its terms.” 

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