HMA v Matthew Brown King Bell

At the High Court in Glasgow today, 25 July 2019, Lord Arthurson sentenced Matthew Bell to an extended sentence of 15 years’ duration, after the accused pled guilty to conspiring with others to commit the rape of a woman and sexual assault of children in the Philippines while viewing a livestream of the offences in his own home. The custodial part will be nine years, which will be followed by an extension period of six years on licence.

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

“Matthew Brown King Bell, on 2 July 2019 at a preliminary hearing at Glasgow High Court you were convicted on your own plea of extremely grave sexual offending in which your victims were an adult female and several pre-pubescent children, all unknown to you, whose abuse in the Philippines you orchestrated and live streamed to your home in Irvine by way of an internet connection.

“You used third party adults in the Philippines to act as your proxy in this appalling criminal conduct, and in respect of at least some of these charges, on the information before me, you did so apparently on a commercial basis.

“I should say that I do not intend to rehearse the nature of the offending for which you will be sentenced today. It was narrated in full by the Crown on the last calling of this case.

“I would make this general comment, however. Those working in these courts require in large part to endure a daily diet of depravity, but on occasion an indictment comes before the court in which new depths of such depravity are plumbed. I have without difficulty concluded that yours is such a case.

“You appear in the High Court today as a first offender. I have listened carefully to the helpful submissions in mitigation advanced this morning on your behalf by your counsel and have read the ‘Stop It Now’ report and forensic clinical psychological report which have been made available to me. Indeed, I take everything that has been said on your behalf into account in selecting an appropriate disposal.

“I note that you have had a solid employment history, and appear on your own account, given to the author of the background report prepared for today’s sentencing hearing, presently to have the support of some family members. You have been, in my view, very candid with the author of that report.

“You have also accepted your criminal responsibility in respect of the index offending by way of your early pleas of guilty.

“The author has nevertheless determined that you pose an imminent risk of serious harm. She has noted the level of planning involved in your offending, together with your consistent prioritisation of your own deviant sexual gratification over the clear and obvious harm inflicted, through your direct instructions of course, upon your victims.

“In the whole circumstances I have concluded that the only appropriate disposal on this indictment, involving as it does sexual offending of the gravity which I have described, requires on any view to be a very significant custodial one.

“Let me be crystal clear: I propose to sentence you on no different a basis than had you yourself undertaken the sexual abuse libelled in these charges in person.

“Indeed, on one view, what you actually did, in involving proxy third party abusers, and at least on some of the occasions libelled doing so apparently on a commercial basis, merits an even more substantial period of imprisonment.

“For my purposes today, however, I will, on the facts before me, be selecting a custodial tariff towards the highest end of the range available, had you performed the acts narrated yourself, subject of course to the application of an appropriate discount in respect of the timing of your pleas of guilty.  

“I propose to take that course in your case expressly to punish you, to reflect the revulsion of society in respect of your crimes, and to deter others from committing such crimes.

“Further, on the basis of the agreed facts in your case, together with the terms of the background report and risk assessment to which I have referred, I must state that I am very concerned by the risk which you present to the public, and in particular to women and children.

“I am of the view that you present a high risk of serious harm from which it is necessary to protect the public, and that the normal period of licence would not be sufficient to protect the public from the risk which you would present on your release from the custodial part of any sentence.

“I accordingly intend today imposing upon you an extended sentence, which will be in two parts.

“The first part is custodial, namely a period of imprisonment. This will be followed by an extension period in the community, when you will be on licence and under supervision.

“The conditions of your licence will be fixed by Scottish Ministers. If during this extension period you fail to comply with the conditions of your licence, it may be revoked and you may be returned to custody for a further period in respect of this indictment.

“The court also has power to deal with you if you commit another offence after your release and while you are on licence. It is very much to be hoped in your case that this extension period will contribute significantly towards your re-integration into the community in due course.

“In the light of the deeply troubling terms of the background report and risk assessment to which I have referred already, it is plain that in your case the extension period will require to be a lengthy one.

“You will therefore serve in respect of this indictment, in respect of all of the charges to which you have tendered pleas of guilty, on an in cumulo basis, an extended sentence of 15 years duration, with a custodial term of nine years, reduced from a period of 12 years due to your early pleas, and thereafter an extension period of six years.

This sentence will be backdated to 2 July 2019, being the date of your conviction and initial remand in custody on this indictment.

“Finally, as a result of this disposal, you now become subject to the notification requirements of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 for an indefinite period.”