Gleneagles Hotel armed robber fails in appeal against sentence for £500,000 heist
An armed robber who was given an extended sentence of 18 years’ imprisonment after being found guilty of carrying out a £500,000 jewellery heist at one of Scotland’s top hotels has had an appeal against his sentence rejected.
Richard Fleming, who was convicted last year of the violent armed robbery at the Gleneagles Hotel in 2017, claimed that the sentence imposed was “excessive”.
But the High Court of the Justiciary Appeal Court ruled that there was “no error” in the trial judge’s approach.
Lord Glennie and Lord Turnbull heard that the appellant pled guilty to two charges of housebreaking in June 2017 and one of loitering with intent, in breach of section 57(1) of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982.
He went to trial on three other charges relating to the “terrifying” armed robbery at the Gleneagles Hotel later that month and was convicted on those charges, which involved the use of violence and the use of weapons, including a pistol, a machete and hammers.
The appellant and his co-accused Liam Richardson had stolen 50 out of 51 Rolex watches – worth a total of £516,750 – which were on display at the Mappin & Webb boutique in the hotel.
The trial judge imposed a cumulo sentence of three years’ imprisonment in respect of charges 1, 2 and 3 – the housebreaking and loitering with intent – and imposed an extended sentence of 18 years in respect of the more serious charges (charges 8, 10 and 11), comprising a custodial part of 15 years and an extension period of three years.
However, the appellant appealed against both elements of that sentence on the grounds that the sentences were excessive, whether considered individually or cumulatively.
He also argued that the judge ought to have discounted the sentence for charges 1, 2 and 3 to reflect the “utilitarian value” of the guilty plea.
But the court was told that the accused already had a “bad record”, having been sentenced in 2007 to nine years imprisonment at the Central Criminal Court in London for possession of a firearm with intent, contrary to section 16 of the Firearms Act 1968.
The appeal judges considered that it was therefore “inevitable” that the trial judge would take the view that a custodial sentence of a longer duration than that was “necessary” in the present case.
Delivering the opinion of the court, Lord Glennie said: “We can see no difficulty with the trial judge’s approach in sentencing for these three offences at Gleneagles and we are not persuaded that the sentence of 15 years for those offences is excessive. No separate point was taken as to the extension period of three years.
“So far as concerns the incidents to which the accused pled guilty, namely the housebreaking on 12 June and a third charge of loitering with intent to commit theft, the trial judge imposed a sentence of three years imprisonment. Having regard to the accused’s record, we cannot find any fault with that sentence.”
The appellant argued that the pleas to charges 1, 2 and 3 should have attracted a discount from that headline sentence of three years.
It was said that the Crown was aware that the appellant was going to plead guilty to those offences and that may well have taken some of the pressure off the advocate depute in conducting that part of the case, but the appeal judges observed that that was not “utilitarian value”.
Lord Glennie added: “There was no saving, or no significant saving, in time and cost of the trial or preparation for it – the evidence of the earlier offences still had to be led – and, although there may have been slightly shorter cross-examination, the learned trial judge was entitled to regard that as of no real value. In those circumstances we can see no error in the trial judge’s approach of refusing a discount for that early plea of guilty.
“It was in the appellant’s own hands as to plead guilty to the other offences and thereby give those early pleas to charges 1, 2 and 3 some utilitarian value, but he chose not to do so. He chose to go to trial on the other charges and must take the consequences.”
© Scottish Legal News Ltd 2019