High Court reduces sentence of teenager in JB v HM Advocate, Appeal Court, High Court of Justiciary [2020] HCJAC 35 HCA/2020/000078/XC 

https://www.scotcourts.gov.uk/docs/default-source/cos-general-docs/pdf-docs-for-opinions/2020hcjac35.pdf?sfvrsn=0 (Appeal Court, High Court of Justiciary, 25 August 2020)

On the 25 August 2020 the High Court reduced the sentence of JB, a teenager who had previously been sentenced after committing an assault with a knife. 

JB had been 16 years old at the time of his offence, and was initially sentenced to 4 years detention. The sentencing judge had stated the starting point for detention to be 6 years; this was then discounted to 4 in order to reflect JB’s early guilty plea.   

The appellant’s main argument in the appeal court case was that the sentencing judge had erred in imposing a custodial sentence, considering all the circumstances i.e. the appellant’s age, and the fact that he had no previous convictions. Counsel for the appellant relied upon a psychological report which highlighted that JB had experienced significant childhood trauma which resulted in ‘toxic childhood stress’ and the inability to ‘manage strong emotions’.  

Another argument raised by the appellant was that the starting point of 6 years detention prior to discount was excessive in all the circumstances.  

Lord Menzies delivered the opinion of the Appeal Court of the High Court of Justiciary. The court agreed with the observations made by the sentencing judge in terms of the seriousness of the crime. They agreed that only a custodial sentence would be appropriate given the circumstances.  

The appeal court did however agree that the sentence imposed was excessive having regard to all the circumstances, including the CJSWR, the psychological report, JB’s progress in detention and his ‘considerable empathy.’ They remarked that it appeared possible for the appellant to be successfully reintegrated back into society.  

The appeal court held that the starting point of 6 years taken by the sentencing judge was that which would be appropriate for an adult offender, and not a child, and held that the sentencing judge erred in this approach.  

It was stated that a starting point of 5 years detention was appropriate given the circumstances of the case, and thereafter with the same discount applied as before (in light of the early plea) JB’s detention was reduced to 40 months. 

Disclaimer: Please note these summaries are intended for your assistance, but are neither exhaustive nor definitive. For a full authoritative report of a summarised case, please go to the official case report via the web link provided.