HMA v RYAN ESQUIERDO

At the High Court in Glasgow, Judge Rae sentenced Ryan Esquierdo to 12 years detention followed by a period of five years supervision after he pled guilty to the culpable homicide of Stuart Walker in Cumnock on 22 October 2011.

On sentencing Judge Rae made the following statement in court:

 “You have pleaded guilty to a brutal and senseless killing of a decent young man who appears to have attempted to show you only kindness and sympathy and for that he lost his life in a most horrific way.

 You were originally charged with murder but shortly before the trial was due to start you pleaded to the charge of culpable homicide on the basis that your responsibility was diminished as a result of post traumatic stress disorder, caused, I am told, by an incident in your childhood when you were sexually assaulted. 

 I have read, with great care, all of the psychological reports placed before me and have noted the circumstances of the previous incident and how that might have impacted on your extremely violent behaviour on the fateful night of 22 October 2011.

 The Crown, in this case, have accepted what has been recounted in these reports and have accepted that you acted in a way that reduces your culpability to something less than that required for proof of murder, hence the acceptance of a plea to culpable homicide.

 I am required, therefore, to sentence you on that basis.

 This is still a very serious matter, however, having regard to the extreme violence you inflicted on the victim, who displayed no aggression whatsoever towards you before you assaulted and killed him.  I note too that the criminal justice social work report assesses you as posing a high risk of re-offending and a very high risk of serious harm to the public.  Your Counsel has effectively urged caution in considering this assessment and I am well aware of the limitations of such risk assessments.  Accordingly I will treat this assessment with some reservation although I cannot ignore it.  In any event, looking at the nature of the crime you committed and of which you claim no memory, it is patently obvious that you are capable of extreme violence.  I cannot ignore too that, although having no memory of what you had just done, you had the presence of mind to attempt to cover up your crime and to destroy evidence.  That included setting fire to Mr Walker’s body and making up a story for the police that you had been attacked by others and that they had killed Mr Walker.  You kept up that pretence for some considerable time.

 In selecting an appropriate and a just sentence, I should say that no sentence that I could impose can ever compensate Mr Walker’s  family and friends for the loss of their loved one.  That is not the function of a criminal court when sentencing an offender. However I am bound to take into account the impact of the crime.

 I should also explain that I require, by law, to allow you a discount on the sentence I would otherwise have imposed to take account  of the fact that you have tendered a plea before the trial commenced.  While it is correct that you have only pleaded guilty at the trial diet I am aware that your position has for some time been that you were prepared to plead guilty to culpable homicide.  Against that I cannot ignore the lengthy procedural history in this case.  I have decided that in all of the circumstances an appropriate discount will be one in the region of 15%.

 I will also have regard to your youth, your lack of previous convictions and your expressions of remorse.

 In view of the risk that you obviously still present I have to consider the protection of the public in the sentence I have to impose. Accordingly I am of the view that an extended sentence is appropriate in respect of charge 1 and the effect of this will result in you being on licence for an extended period when you are released.  You must understand that such a sentence will involve you being supervised in the community for a significant period, during which you will be subject to licence conditions set by The Parole Board for Scotland. I should add that if you breach these licence conditions or commit any further offences during your licence period that will lead, in all probability, to your immediate recall to custody.

 On charge 3, I intend to impose a consecutive sentence which will commence at the end of the custodial part of the sentence which I shall impose on charge one.  My reason for that is because of the serious nature of that charge, particularly having regard to your attempt to set the body of the deceased on fire to destroy evidence.  The sentence would have been longer had it not been for the length of the sentence I am about to impose on charge one.

 In respect of charge one I would have imposed a period of 12 years.  As I have previously indicated I am prepared to discount that by 15%, accordingly the sentence on charge one will be 10 years and 3 months.

 I shall extend that sentence by a period of 5 years.  This makes an aggregate extended sentence of 15 years and 3 months.

 In respect of charge 3 the sentence would have been 24 months which I shall reduce by approximately 15%.  I shall allow a discount of 3 months resulting in a period of 1 year and 9 months.

 The effect of this sentence is that you will be detained for a total period of 12 years followed by a period of 5 years supervision.

 I am prepared to backdate the sentences to 31st October 2011”.