HMA v Bohdan Cieslar

At the High Court in Edinburgh today, 12 September 2019, Lord Pentland sentenced Bohdan Cieslar to nine years’ imprisonment after the accused was found guilty of the culpable homicide of Aleksander Smerdel.

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

“Bohdan Cieslar, you were convicted by the jury of the offence of culpable homicide, having been indicted and gone to trial on a charge of murder. On 27 December 2018 you stabbed the deceased with a knife causing his death.

“For the purposes of explaining the sentence of the court it is appropriate to refer to certain parts of the evidence at the trial.

“The evidence showed that you inflicted a total of three stab wounds; these involved the left side of the front of the chest and the left upper arm. The most significant injury was the one to the left side of the front of the chest. 

“This had entered the chest cavity, damaged the front of the heart and transected one of the major vessels supplying the heart; it would have resulted in a rapid and profuse loss of blood, and ultimately in death within a period of seconds to minutes.

“In addition, you inflicted two stab wounds on the deceased’s left upper arm.  These had merged to produce a ‘through and through’ stab wound which damaged the left brachial artery. These again would have resulted in rapid and profuse blood loss, probably contributing to the extensive overall blood loss found at the scene.

“It was not possible for the pathologists to determine the order in which you inflicted the stab wounds, but they were able to say that once the deceased’s heart had been damaged he would have been capable of purposeful activity for only a short period prior to collapse, as the result of blood loss. 

“The pathologists expressed the opinion that the first stab wound sliced into and damaged the cartilage of the sternum, indicating that at least moderate force had been involved in the infliction of the wound, although more force could have been involved. 

“The pathologists also noted that there were several small incised wounds on the palm of the deceased’s right hand and on the knuckle of the left little finger. Although some of the incised wounds on the right hand appeared to be older, there was at least one flapped injury which appeared to be recent.

“The pathologists expressed the view that the incised wounds were typical of injuries sustained in attempting to ward off blows from a sharp weapon; in other words, they were defensive injuries in keeping with contact with a sharp weapon. 

“There was scientific evidence that your trousers, socks and sandals were found to bear widespread blood staining, with numerous assorted-sized blood spots on the front of the trousers, mostly around the lower legs and hems, and further small and minute blood spots on the top of the socks and on the sandal straps. In addition, blood staining was found on the edge of each trouser hem and on the underside of the sole on each sandal.

“Selected bloodstains on the lower clothing and footwear all matched the blood of the deceased. The scientists expressed the view that these findings were readily explained if you had stood close to the deceased as he was heavily bleeding and dripping blood, some of which had splashed back onto your lower trouser legs, socks and footwear. 

“The scientists also noted that, as compared with your lower clothing and footwear, your upper clothing (your jacket, jumper and shirt) bore less blood staining. In their opinion, there was nothing about the form or distribution of the blood staining on your upper clothing to indicate that you had been in extensive contact with the deceased whilst the deceased was bleeding heavily.

“Based on the evidence I have just summarised, it is reasonable to conclude that you assaulted the deceased with a knife, using at least moderate force. You stabbed him in the chest and upper arm.

“The stab wound to the chest fatally injured the deceased’s heart. The injuries you inflicted caused the deceased to bleed profusely onto your lower clothing and footwear.

“You must have been positioned close to him when you stabbed him. It would appear that he attempted to ward off your blows with his hands.

“The evidence showed that your relationship with the deceased had been a challenging and unstable one; he was prone to become aggressive and to behave in a bullying manner towards you when he was intoxicated. What happened at the time of the fatal incident requires to be seen against that background.

“In the early hours of 27 December 2018 the deceased came into your bedroom uninvited; he had been drinking heavily since the previous afternoon. 

“He was a younger and stronger man. Whilst the jury rejected your defences of accident and of self-defence, they convicted you of the offence of culpable homicide

“I have taken account of all that has been said on your behalf today and of the contents of the criminal justice social work report.

“You are a 60-year-old man with a good employment record. You have some relatively minor criminal convictions, but nothing that approaches the gravity of the present offence. You have expressed remorse and have some insight into the impact of your crime on others.

“Based on the evidence at the trial, I make allowance for the effects of some degree of provocation on the part of the deceased.

“In the whole circumstances, the sentence of the court is one of imprisonment for a term of nine years. Your sentence will be backdated to 31 December 2018.”