HMA v Danielle Findlay

At the High Court in Edinburgh today (17 June 2020), Lord Boyd of Duncasby sentenced Danielle Findlay to a Community Payback Order with a requirement of 240 hours unpaid work and 3 years supervision, after the offender pleaded guilty to being concerned in supplying drugs to the Inverness area.

“On 26 August last year you pleaded guilty to charges 10 and 11 on an indictment on which you appeared along with a number of other accused involved in the supply of drugs to the Inverness area. At a subsequent diet on 7 October, having seen the criminal justice social work report and other references on your behalf I decided to defer sentence to see whether or not you could continue with the progress that you had already made in addressing your drug addiction. I am pleased to see that you appear to have continued to progress and I can now sentence you for the offences to which you pleaded guilty.

It is I think worth reminding you of the circumstances in which you come before me.

On 16 January 2019 you were driving north on the A82 when you were stopped by police officers at Drumnadrochit by officers in a marked police car. You were detained in terms of section 23 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. You were cautioned and replied “Aye, there are drugs in the car.” You apparently appreciated the serious nature of what you were doing because you told officers: “What is in the car is a long time in jail.”

That of course was correct because you were carrying nearly a kilo of cocaine and 1.5 kilos of diamorphine. The potential combined value of these drugs was in the region of £150,000.

It appears that you were induced to carry out these offences to clear a proportion of a large drug debt that you had accrued. You were acting on the direction of your then co-accused Stephen Charles Kelly.

As you will have appreciated from the sentences imposed on your former co-accused, ordinarily such offences would attract significant jail sentences even for a first offender, as you are.

When you came before me on 7 October last year I was presented with significant information regarding your mental health and the very significant efforts that you had made to address the underlying addiction that had led you to commit these offences.

You have a long history of mental health problems going back to your teenage years. During this time and into adulthood you developed an addiction to cocaine. Latterly this addiction consumed you; you frankly told the social worker that you reached a point where you would have carried out any illegal act in an effort to purchase drugs to fuel your addiction.

Despite these problems you worked in local government for 13 years gaining promotion up from grade 3 to grade 8. You were described as extremely diligent, reliable, and punctual and “as a pleasure to work with”.

You were hospitalised following your appearance on petition. On your release from psychiatric hospital you spent 28 days in a Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation Unit. The report from that unit was very positive in its terms, describing the physical effects that you had suffered during a medical opiate detoxification intervention and your will power in suffering these symptoms.

You were motivated to become drug free and had made substantial progress. You showed great willingness to rehabilitate in every sense of the word.

Other references spoke to the support that you have had from family and friends, your remorse and your commitment to change and the regard in which you are generally held amongst work colleagues, friends and family.

The latest social work report confirms that the progress has continued. You are now housed in temporary accommodation and have settled in well. You have been supported through the Elder Street project and Second Chance. You continue to engage with addiction services on a daily basis. You have been doing voluntary work with the Marie Trust and the Simon Community.

I have a report which states that your approach to reinventing yourself in abstinence based recovery is admirable. Another has observed a phenomenal change since the author first saw you shortly after your offending.

It is also clear to me that if I was to impose a custodial sentence there is a real risk of endangering your mental health and undoing the excellent work that has been achieved so far. It is only 15 months or so since you have become drug free and it would be a disaster if that progress was put in jeopardy.

For all these reasons I have decided that a custodial sentence is not appropriate in your case. You should not think that I am doing this simply to benefit you. If I were to sentence you to prison there is a real danger of your relapse into addiction. If that happens I am satisfied that the temptation to engage in further serious offending would be a strong one with all the harm to the wider community that would entail. This then is for the benefit of the community as well as you. It gives you the opportunity of living life as a full and productive member of society.”

A community payback order was imposed with a requirement that Ms Findlay complete 240 hours of unpaid work, reduced from 300 hours for the early plea and a supervision requirement for a period of three years. Progress reviews every six months were also ordered, the first one being on 17 December 2020 at the High Court in Edinburgh.