HMA v SHANIECE DOBSON

At the High Court in Edinburgh Lord Boyd of Duncansby imposed an extended sentence of 11 years on Shaniece Dobson after she was found guilty of the culpable homicide of Sean Martin on 25 February 2012 in Coatbridge.

On sentencing Lord Boyd of Duncansby made the following statement in court:

“For no reason that this Court can discern exactly one year ago today you deliberately walked into the kitchen of your flat, armed yourself with a kitchen knife, walked back out into the living room and stabbed Sean Martin in the chest using such force that it penetrated the chest cavity to a depth of 17cm. It is apparent that he died within a few minutes. While the jury were not satisfied that this demonstrated the gross and wicked recklessness required to constitute the crime of murder there is no doubt that this was a deliberate and wicked act of the upmost gravity. You chose to go into the kitchen, you chose to pick up the knife, you chose to go back out into the living room and you chose to stab him in an area of the body which would inflict the maximum damage.

While the evidence showed that there may have been some argument between you and Sean nothing that happened that night in the flat comes close to providing a justification, pretext or even explanation for your behaviour. That all this happened in front of Sean’s younger sister, Ann and younger brother Paul is even more shocking.

I have read the witness statement from Mr Thomas Martin, Sean’s father, Mrs Angela Martin, his mother and his sisters Angela and Caroline. It is clear that they were proud of Sean – his father speaks particularly of his success as an amateur boxer. His passing has left a large gap in the family and each one of them in their own way will feel this loss. He was more than just a family member. He was a confidant and best friend.

No sentence that I pass can adequately mark their grief. Nothing I can do can compensate them for their loss.

I accept that alcohol has clearly played a big part in your life and may have done so on the night. I note that you have been seeking treatment for this addiction and you are to be commended for that. I am conscious too that you are a first offender and that you have the support of your family.

I also accept that you are remorseful though that will be of little comfort to the family. It does mean however that if it is truly genuine there is a good chance of you making something of your life once you are released from prison.

Both Dr Baird and the CJSWR have suggested that I consider an extended sentence; that is a period of supervision in the community after your release from prison. However I can only do so if I consider that the sentence I am going to pass would not be adequate to protect the public from serious harm from the offender. Although you are regarded as a low risk to the public it is clear that were you to drift back to alcohol and substance abuse you may pose a risk to the public. Accordingly I will extend the sentence by a short amount so that you will continue to be subject to licence conditions on your release for a short period of time.

I note that you offered to plead guilty to the offence of which you were subsequently convicted at the preliminary hearing. Accordingly I have to consider the issue of discount. The main purpose of such a discount is to encourage early pleas and avoid trials. While a trial did place in this case that was because the Crown did not accept your plea. Like Ms McMenamin I take the view that the Crown cannot be criticised for leaving the decision to the jury. However I consider that the fact that you offered to plead at an early stage should be reflected in a small discount on your sentence.

In all the circumstances I sentence you to an extended sentence of 11 years, of which the custodial part shall be 10 years discounted from 12 and one year extended. The sentence will be backdated to 13 January 2013 to take account of the time you spent in custody.”