HMA v Joshua Rosenberg

At the High Court today, 15 March 2019, Lord Beckett sentenced Joshua Rosenberg to 12 years’ imprisonment after the accused was found guilty of attempted extortion, attempted fraud, wilful fire-raising and attempting to pervert the course of justice.

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

“You attempted to extort substantial sums of money from two mature women who held responsible employment. 

“They were perhaps vulnerable by virtue of their not living nearby to the house they let out to fund the care of their elderly father. You thought that you had identified weakness and in the context of a very peculiarly conducted legal action you made a series of threats which caused great distress, anxiety, illness and absence from work.  

“A person is entitled to make a claim through the courts and encourage his opponents to settle, but your conduct went way beyond that and was a gross abuse of legal process. Your threats were manipulative, deeply cynical and downright cruel and have had profound effects.   

“I heard about that in evidence and in a statement I have learned more of the detail. The need to engage legal representation to cope with your unrelenting and threatening correspondence caused significant financial loss to your victims, even if you did not succeed in laying your own hands on their money. 

“When your attempt to extort money failed, you set up an elaborate scheme to make a fraudulent insurance claim on the back of your instigating the destruction by fire of a house in Dollar which was of great sentimental value to the late Mr Munro, then still alive, and to his family.  

“Despite not requiring contents insurance in your last home, you instructed your wife to take out contents insurance to the value of £60,000. 

“You made sure that you and your family were not at risk, but setting such a fire created substantial potential for injury to others. The trail of inflammable material into your car, itself insured for a large sum, was plainly designed to cause the car to be destroyed. 

“Accordingly you were prepared to expose the local community to the risk of an explosion and your actions exposed members of the fire service to the risks inherent in responding to the fire which actually developed. 

“You then made a fraudulent claim for insurance in the course of which you created a false report having sought to manipulate the scene to avoid the natural consequences of discoveries made by those who investigated the fire. 

“You then set about a campaign to divert attention from yourself in order to try to avoid prosecution, conviction and punishment for these serious crimes. 

“You sought to manipulate an elderly and infirm man who trusted you completely. You sought to besmirch the reputation of the police officer who interviewed you, making extremely serious, but baseless, criminal allegations against him. 

“When none of this worked you sent serious and alarming threats to a Member of the Scottish Parliament.  You sought to mislead the Deputy Chief Constable by making serious but baseless allegations about corruption within the police. 

“You wrote to the First Minister of Scotland pretending that you were someone else, falsely confessing to numerous other crimes and you made threats to blow up the Scottish Parliament.  

“I recognise that there is no basis to conclude that you actually intended to follow through these threats, but the recipients of them, and the authorities, were not to know that.  I have no information to suggest that any great disruption was caused, but again it seems to me that you were not to know that. You cynically pursued this course of conduct for purely selfish reasons without any regard for the effects of your actions. 

“You were prepared to court any cost to the public, any damage to the lives of those you sought to implicate and any amount of disruption to the Scottish Parliament in your twisted, but ultimately futile, attempts to evade responsibility for your actions. Your conduct is an affront to human decency and an affront to democracy. It cannot be tolerated. 

“I now learn that you have significant previous convictions in Europe. In 1999 you were sentenced to imprisonment for nine months for fraud. In 2000 you were sentenced to three years and six months juvenile detention for 22 charges of fraud. In 2002, for two cases of aggravated robbery associated with dangerous bodily injury a sentence of imprisonment of eight years was imposed. 

“Taking all of these matters into account, it is necessary to impose a very substantial prison sentence in order to punish you for your outrageous conduct, to seek to protect the public from you, and to seek to deter you and others who might contemplate committing such serious crimes. 

“I take into account your family circumstances and what I have been told about your health. I take account of the passage of time since these offences were committed and the onerous conditions of bail to which you have been subject over a number of years. I also take account of your having been remanded in custody between 29 May 2018 and 2 July 2018. 

“I consider it appropriate to impose one sentence to cover all of the charges. Viewing the charges of which you have been convicted together, I consider this to represent a very serious, escalating course of criminal conduct. 

“Charge 4 is aggravated by repeated and different acts occurring in breach of bail and I must take account of that. 

“The starting point is a sentence of imprisonment for 12 years and six months, six months of which is attributable to the bail aggravation. Taking account of the time you spent on remand and the restrictive conditions of your bail, I will limit the sentence to imprisonment for 12 years which you will serve from today."