HMA v Christopher James O'Brien and Patrick McHugh

At the High Court in Glasgow today, 11 December 2018, Lord Arthurson sentenced Christopher James O’Brien and James McHugh to six years’ imprisonment after they each pled guilty to assault, hamesucken and robbery. On sentencing, Lord Arthurson made the following statement in court:

“Christopher James O’Brien and James McHugh, on 20 November 2018 in this court you each tendered a plea of guilty to a single charge of assault, hamesucken and robbery, while in possession of a knife and other weapons, on a private home in Ayr occupied by a female, her partner, and a three-year-old child. 

“On 22 January 2018 at 9.30pm, you forced entry to that home using a ‘rammit’ device of the type used by police officers, having shouted ‘it’s the police’ as you sought entry. 

“You duly left the house, having engaged in threatening behaviour towards the female householder, taking with you a vehicle valued at £10,000, which vehicle was subsequently recovered under execution of a search warrant.

“Christopher O’Brien, you further committed this offence while the subject of two bail orders, and while you were under supervision by way of a community payback order. Indeed, you are now serving a 10-month prison sentence for breaching that order. 

“Your criminal record discloses 10 groups of previous convictions, including a 2010 conviction for possession of a machete. 

“You have been assessed in the criminal justice social work report prepared for today’s sentencing hearing as posing a high risk of reoffending, but I note that you have displayed some insight into the gravity of this new offence to the author of that report.

“Patrick McHugh, your record discloses 11 groups of previous convictions, and also includes a weapons-related offence. You have served two prior custodial sentences to date.

“The report prepared in respect of you confirms the obvious point that your conviction on the present indictment represents a considerable escalation in the pattern and seriousness of your offending.

“I have listened carefully to the mitigation advanced on your behalf by your respective counsel this morning, and note in particular your personal circumstances and the explanations offered for the late tendering of pleas of guilty by both of you in this case, these being effectively tendered to the court on the morning of your trial, having been agreed with the Crown the previous day, efforts to resolve matters having at least been attempted before that.

“You are each responsible for the conduct to which you have pled guilty, which is in identical terms, with the bail aggravation applicable only to you, Christopher O’Brien, albeit I note from the agreed narrative that it was you, Peter McHugh, who was armed with the knife referred to in the libel. 

“In the whole circumstances of this case, where a concerted and targeted offence such as this crime has been committed on a private dwelling house with weapons in the manner libelled, I have concluded without difficulty that a substantial custodial sentence is the only appropriate disposal, and I do not propose to distinguish between you in imposing sentence.

“I now accordingly sentence you as follows. You will both serve a sentence of six years’ imprisonment, backdated in your case Christopher O’Brien to 23 May 2018, and in your case Patrick McHugh to 7 March 2018.  But for the late tendering of your respective pleas of guilty in this matter, the custodial tariff would have been one of six years and six months imprisonment.”