HMA v Steven Marshall and James Smith

At the High Court in Aberdeen today, 10 April, 2019, Lord Clark sentenced Steven Marshall and James Smith each to 8 years’ imprisonment after the offenders were convicted of assaults using acid.

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

“Steven Marshall and James Smith, on 14 October 2017, you turned up with others at the flat of a person who apparently owed Steven Marshall a drug debt of £1000. The door of the flat was kicked and some of the individuals who were inside came out to see what was happening. During the resulting confrontation, you Steven Marshall shouted “skoosh him” or “skoosh them”. James Smith, you then held up a plastic bottle and squeezed acid out of it, on to three of the individuals.

On the evidence of the forensic scientist, this was acid of the highest strength which, when it comes into contact with skin, corrodes and consumes it. The acid caused the three victims to feel immediate burning of their skin, resulting in serious injury and rough scarring to the arms and body and in the case of one of them damage also to his face.

On the evidence of one witness, you Steven Marshall passed the bottle containing the acid to James Smith. But even simply on the basis that you gave the instruction “skoosh him” or “skoosh them”, I regard you both as implicated to precisely the same extent in the commission of these crimes.

The use of acid to attack people is cruel and barbaric and can have particularly damaging consequences, physical and psychological, for the victims. It must be treated as a very serious form of assault. It must attract custodial sentences of a level that will impose an appropriate punishment, mark the gravity of your crimes, and seek to deter you and others from conducting such terrible attacks. The sentences must also be proportionate.

In relation to each of you, I have had regard to all that has been said on your behalf this morning. I have also considered and taken into account for each of you the terms of the Criminal Justice Social Work report. I note that neither of you accept responsibility for any part in the offences. You each have previous convictions but these do not concern any analogous offences. For each of you I have also had taken into account your age and your personal circumstances as explained on your behalf this morning.

I have given careful consideration to whether the statutory requirements for an extended sentence have been met but I am not satisfied, notwithstanding what is said in the report in relation to you Steven Marshall, that they are met in respect of either of you.

Steven Marshall, had I been sentencing you in respect of only one of the three charges, I would have imposed a custodial term of four years. .

If these sentences were made consecutive that would result in an aggregate sentence which is excessive. I intend therefore to impose on you a single cumulo custodial sentence which reflects the totality of the criminality concerned in respect of charges 4, 5 and 6. Balancing all of the factors, I sentence you Steven Marshall to 8 years imprisonment.

The sentence will be backdated to 18 February 2019, when you were first remanded in custody.

James Smith, had I been sentencing you in respect of only one of the three charges, I would also have imposed a custodial term of four years. For the same reason as I have just given, I impose on you a single cumulo custodial sentence which reflects the totality of the criminality concerned in respect of charges 4, 5 and 6. I sentence you James Smith to 8 years imprisonment.

Your sentence will also be backdated to 18 February 2019, when you were first remanded in custody.”