HMA v JOHN DAVID BROWN

At the High Court in Edinburgh Lord Uist sentenced John Brown to 18 months in prison after he pled guilty to assault.

On sentencing Lord Uist made the following statement in court:

“You pleaded guilty at a preliminary hearing to assaulting Charles Johnstone on 18 December last year in Dalkeith by punching him on the head , causing him to fall to the ground and strike his head on the ground to his severe injury, permanent disfigurement and to the danger of his life.

The circumstances of the incident were that you had been out drinking in Dalkeith on a Saturday evening and joined a taxi queue between half past midnight and one o’clock on Sunday morning. Mr Johnstone was one of a group of three men which made inappropriate remarks to a female in the queue, whom you allowed to go ahead of you to escape the situation. Thereafter one of the group of three (not Mr Johnstone) made derogatory remarks to another female and you said to him “That’s not nice, that’s out of order”. You then lost your temper when one of the group made a derogatory remark about your uncle, who had just joined you in the taxi queue. When you tried to punch another of the group Mr Johnstone ran towards you and you punched him once with your full fist right in the face, knocking him backwards and causing him to hit the back of his head on the ground, where he then lay unconscious. The punch which you delivered must have been one of considerable force, because not only did it knock Mr Johnstone to the ground: it also caused you to sustain a fracture in your right hand.

Police officers who were nearby attended immediately but you fled the scene and were later found crouching behind a garden fence. At the police station you admitted having punched Mr Johnstone and when you were informed of the serious nature of his injuries you became upset and apologised.  As a result of your punch Mr Johnstone sustained life-threatening brain injuries and has undergone three brain operations. He was in hospital for a total of 97 days, is left with a depression in his skull, suffers from severe headaches and is unable to walk any great distance. His wife has, quite understandably, been deeply affected by what happened to him.

You are now 25 years old, live with your partner of five years and your two children and hold down two part-time jobs. Your record discloses nine previous court appearances between May 2005 and July 2011. You have four convictions for breach of the peace, all of which resulted in fines being imposed, and were convicted on indictment in November 2007 at Edinburgh Sheriff Court of assault to injury, for which you were fined £300 and ordered to pay compensation of £100.

I take into account all that has been said in mitigation on your behalf and the contents of the social enquiry report on you. I accept that you did not start the trouble at the taxi rank, that you did not intend or foresee the serious injuries caused to Mr Johnstone by your single punch and that you expressed genuine remorse immediately afterwards. On the other hand, your record indicates previous involvement in disorder and violence and I have to have regard to the serious injuries suffered by your victim. Taking into account all the relevant factors, I have concluded that a non-custodial sentence would not be justified in this case and that justice requires the imposition of a custodial sentence.

Had you been convicted by a jury after trial I would, in light of the substantial mitigation, have imposed a sentence of two years imprisonment, a much shorter sentence than an assault causing such injuries would normally attract. As you pleaded guilty at a preliminary hearing that sentence will be discounted to 18 months imprisonment”.