HMA v Charlene Keenan or Gallacher

At Glasgow High Court today (26 June 2020) Lord Arthurson sentenced Charlene Keenan or Gallacher to 5 years imprisonment after she pled guilty to storing a quantity of cocaine behind a kitchen skirting board in the property at which she resided.

On sentencing Lord Arthurson made the following statement in court:

“Charlene Gallacher, you have this morning at a preliminary hearing tendered a plea of guilty to a single charge indictment libelling a contravention of section 4(3)(b) of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.  On 6 December 2019 during a police search under warrant of a flat in Glasgow at which you resided, officers found behind a kitchen skirting board 41.91 grams of semi-compressed cocaine with a value of £800.  These drugs were subsequently assessed as being excessive for personal use and more consistent with being for onward sale and supply.

In the ordinary run of things this offence could have been prosecuted in the sheriff court, possibly even at summary level. You have been indicted into this Court, however, due to your very significant criminal antecedents, and in particular your record of analogous offending for drug trafficking. You have accrued to date on my count 47 groups of previous convictions. In 2008 under section 76 procedure you were sentenced to 20 months imprisonment plus a section 16 return period. The class of drugs involved in that matter is not recorded. In 2011 you served a 4 year prison sentence for a class A offence and in 2016 you were sentenced to 41 months imprisonment for another class A offence. The mandatory minimum sentence provisions of sections 205B and 196(2) of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995 are therefore engaged in respect of the present indictment. This means that you will require to serve a certain minimum sentence unless the Court can be satisfied that there are specific circumstances pertaining either to you or to the index offence that would make the imposition of such a custodial tariff unjust.

Your counsel has addressed your personal circumstances and background in the course of his submissions on your behalf in mitigation today and I propose to take all of these matters into account in considering an appropriate sentence. He has in particular of course sought to persuade the Court to apply the specific circumstance exception to which reference has already been made, relying on dicta of the Court in the recent decision of HMA v Martin [2019] HCJAC 86. In the event of this submission being successful, your counsel made clear that he was not seeking any further discount to be applied in respect of the timing of your plea.

I have reached the view that your own case is very much on all fours with the authority founded upon by your counsel, and that in particular the relatively low level of offending involved in the index offence, having regard to the value of the drugs and the period in the libel being restricted to a single day, can be said to amount to a specific circumstance justifying in your case a departure from passing the normally applicable mandatory minimum sentence.

Turning now to disposal, in the whole circumstances I consider that, having regard to the offence before the Court today and to your significant record of prior analogous offending at indictment level, a substantial sentence of imprisonment is nevertheless well merited in your case. You will therefore serve in respect of this indictment a period of 5 years imprisonment. This sentence will be backdated to 7 January 2020, being the date of your initial remand in these proceedings.”