HMA v Liam Donnelly & 2 others

At the High Court in Glasgow today (29 January 2020), Lady Rae sentenced Liam Donnelly to 8 years imprisonment after he pleaded guilty to culpable homicide. Two others were sentenced for knife crimes.

On sentencing, Lady Rae made the following statement in court: 

“Liam Donnelly you pleaded guilty to the culpable homicide of a 26 year old man. You and your co-accused originally faced a charge of murder. At the trial diet the Crown accepted that you Mr Donnelly acted under provocation and that a plea to a reduced charge was appropriate. That is a decision for the Crown and the Crown alone and I must sentence on that basis.

However what happened on 22 February was a needless act of violence. After an aggressive and threatening telephone exchange with the deceased where both of you were threatening and challenging each other, you and your co-accused, fuelled by alcohol and drugs, went to the house of the deceased in the early hours of the morning where you Mr Donnelly started to remonstrate with the deceased for having damaged your girlfriend’s property after the non-payment of a drug debt.

Instead of reporting the matter to the police you decided to take the law into your own hands. The consequences have led to loss of life and devastated the deceased’s family.

By the time you arrived at the door of the deceased’s house you were armed with a knife and the deceased was also armed himself with a knife. Thereafter a disturbance occurred in the street during which the deceased injured your hands with a wooden object and one of your co-accused was slashed by him, after which the deceased was stabbed to death. The precise details of that stabbing are unknown. But that is what occurred, and it is accepted it was not murder, and I have to deal with this case on that basis.

Let me be clear, although the Crown has accepted this as a reduced plea, this is still a very serious matter. The fact that you were all intoxicated is no excuse whatsoever. I accept that the deceased’s previous behaviour was unacceptable but he did not deserve to die.

I am going to deal with this case in the following order.

RYAN DOWNIE

You have had no involvement with the criminal justice system in the past. You appear to be of good character and you have a stable background. As well as the others you were intoxicated which you accept is no excuse. Like your co-accused, Mr Dunion, you had no involvement in the death of Mr McMillan. Your involvement was limited to taking custody of the small knife from Mr Dunion while in the Monklands General Hospital.

You were remanded in custody from 25 February 2019 until I released you on bail on 4 December.  You had a murder charge hanging over you for a substantial period and you were remanded for in excess of 9 months. For those reasons and having regard to your lack of previous convictions and very limited involvement in the knife charge you will be admonished.

ALAN DUNION

It is clear that the small knife recovered from your co-accused had been in your possession that night. I accept that you never produced that knife during the incident but it has been said repeatedly that the carrying of knives in public streets will not be tolerated because of the risk that someone could be seriously injured or indeed killed. You were on a community payback order at the time and that related to a conviction for serious violence. 

In my view, having regard to the circumstances of this case, a custodial sentence is appropriate to reflect the seriousness of this type of charge. I am mindful that you too have had a murder charge hanging over you and you have been remanded in custody since 25 February 2019. In these circumstances the sentence will be 12 months imprisonment backdated to that date.

LIAM DONNELLY

You have a record of previous convictions including convictions for violence. You were on bail at the time for another serious violent offence. Your circumstances are very different from your co-accused. It is clear from the information before me including a psychological report, that, although no formal diagnosis has been made, you are suffering from symptoms consistent with post-traumatic stress disorder, stemming principally from your experience in the army where you served for five years. Alcohol and drugs appear to have become a major issue for you and that is something you will have to address.

Having regard to all of the circumstances of this case, including the fact that you pleaded guilty to a reduced charge and that it was under provocation and having regard to your particular personal circumstances I am prepared to deal with this case more leniently that I would otherwise do. Having heard your senior counsel I am satisfied an extended sentence would not be justified in this case. I am prepared to discount the sentence by one year to reflect the plea, albeit at the trial diet. Your sentence would have been nine years imprisonment but I shall reduce it eight years, backdated to 25 February 2019. 9 months of that sentence is attributable to the bail aggravation.”