Woman found guilty of culpable homicide loses appeal against 10-year prison sentence

Lord Brodie
Lord Brodie

A young woman found guilty of culpable homicide after she “instigated” an attack which led to the murder of her ex-boyfriend has had an appeal against her sentence rejected.

Tasmin Glass, 20, was sentenced to 10 years’ detention after she enlisted two co-accused Steven Dickie and Callum Davidson to set upon Steven Donaldson.

She claimed that the sentence imposed by the trial judge was “excessive”, but the Appeal Court of High Court of Justiciary said there was “no reason to disagree” with the trial judge’s observation that the appellant had been convicted of a “serious offence”.

‘Cold blooded murder’

Lord Brodie, Lord Drummond Young and Lord Turnbull heard that the appellant and her co-accused went to trial for the murder of Steven Donaldson at the High Court in Edinburgh earlier this year.

The court was told that the appellant had been in a relationship with the deceased but by June 2018 the relationship had become strained.

She became sexually involved with Dickie but still owed the deceased money from an insurance settlement for a car he had bought for her but she had written off in an accident.

The appellant – who was, unknown to the deceased, pregnant with his child – wanted the deceased out of her life and instigated the attack by enlisting her co-accused in a plan to attack him.

She drove the co-accused to a house in Kirriemuir, Angus where Davidson picked up a baseball bat, before driving the pair to a street where they picked up other weapons to be used in assaulting the deceased.

She then dropped off the co-accused near a play park where she had arranged to meet the deceased under the pre-text of discussing the future of their relationship.

Soon after the two co-accused, having armed themselves with the baseball bat, knives and a cleaver or axe, arrived on foot and set upon Mr Donaldson while the appellant, with what the trial judge described as “chilling coolness”, drove home and carried on “as normal”.

‘Excessive sentence’

Dickie and Donaldson were convicted by majority verdicts of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment with punishment parts of 23 and 23 years respectively after the judge Lord Pentland described them as “cold-blooded, violent murderers”.

The appellant was unanimously found guilty of culpable homicide, which the judge described as a “very serious offence”.

Lord Pentland sentenced her to 10 years’ detention, having observed she was a “manipulative and devious” woman without whose “influence” the fatal attack on Mr Donaldson would not have occurred.

However, the appellant argued that the sentence, which having regard to the period during which she had been held on remand was the equivalent to a period closer to 11 years, was “excessive” when taking into account her personal circumstances.

She was only 19 at the time of the offence, an only child not yet independent of her parents, and was “quite immature”.

She had done well at school and had no previous convictions, and the author of the criminal justice social work report concluded that she was “unlikely to re-offend”. 

It was also submitted that while it could be inferred from the evidence that the appellant knew that the co-accused had armed themselves with baseball bat, it could not be inferred that she had been aware that Dickie and Davidson had collected the bladed weapons which were used in the fatal assault.

‘Pivotal role’

Refusing the appeal, the judges agreed with the trial judge’s assessment that the sentence imposed had to reflect the appellant’s role in what was a serious offence.

Delivering the opinion of the court, Lord Brodie said: “We have not been persuaded that the trial judge’s sentence was excessive when regard is had to the degree of the appellant’s culpability for the death of the deceased and her personal circumstances.

“The appellant was not found guilty of murder. That was significant. She was however found guilty of culpable homicide and there is no challenge to that verdict. That also was significant. 

“The range of degrees of culpability which may be reflected by a verdict of culpable homicide is admittedly very wide but the degree of culpability for a homicide resulting from a persistent attack with a club such as a baseball bat is not very different from the degree of culpability for a homicide resulting from a persistent attack with a bladed weapon.

“The trial judge explains in his report that whatever the exact explanation for the jury’s verdict, the evidence left no room for doubt that the appellant was intensely involved in the planning and facilitating of the brutal killing of her partner. 

‘She played a pivotal role in the killing. She was the prime mover behind the assaults on the deceased. Without her active encouragement and participation, the attacks could not and would not have occurred. 

“In these circumstances, the trial judge took the view that the appellant had been convicted of a serious offence of culpable homicide and that she had to be sentenced accordingly, notwithstanding her young age. 

“He had regard to the various aspects of the appellant’s circumstances which were mentioned in the grounds of appeal, in particular her young age, her lack of previous convictions, and the fact that she had a young child.” 

He added: “We see no reason to disagree with the trial judge’s assessment that the appellant had been convicted of a serious offence, with the aggravating features bearing on culpability which he summarised in his sentencing statement.

“We agree with the trial judge that the appellant had to be sentenced accordingly, notwithstanding her young age. That being so we cannot regard the sentence imposed, taking it to be the equivalent of something not far short of 11 years detention, as excessive.”

© Scottish Legal News Ltd 2021

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