Appeal judges uphold Order for Lifelong Restriction on Aberdeen man convicted of assaulting ex-partners

The Appeal Court of the High Court of Justiciary has upheld a judge’s decision to impose an Order for Lifelong Restriction against a 24-year-old Aberdeen man convicted of several offences against two former partners.

The appellant, AB, was convicted of 11 charges including serious assaults, abduction, threatening and abusive behaviour, and stalking. He argued that the sentencing judge was not in a position to impose an OLR on him as he had misdirected himself on the evidence.

The appeal was heard by the Lord Justice Clerk, Lady Dorrian, sitting with Lord Pentland and Lord Matthews. M Anderson, advocate, appeared for the appellant and R Goddard QC for the Crown.

Comparatively superficial investigation

The appellant entered into a relationship with the first complainer, SLG, in 2012 when he was aged 15 and she was 17. She described him as becoming increasingly violent further into the relationship, including punching and kicking her into walls and stubbing lit cigarettes on her face. The charges relating to SLG included repeated assault over a period of time to severe injury, permanent disfigurement, and the danger of her life.

In 2017, when he was 20, the appellant became involved with the second complainer, SLD. They met while she was acting as his care worker, and she lost her job as a result of failing to maintain professional boundaries. During their relationship the appellant became verbally and physically abusive, and on occasion he would hide the keys to their flat so that she was unable to leave.

The appellant was described as having a troubled childhood and had been placed on the Child Protection Register at birth. He was first detained by police when he was 11 for assaulting his adopted mother and younger brother, and subsequently placed into care. His problems continued into adulthood, and he had 13 previous convictions, 9 of which were for assault.

At the sentencing diet, the judge had access to two Risk Assessment Reports prepared by different psychologists, Mrs Munro and Ms Harris, which differed in the categorisation of the risk posed by the appellant. The judge agreed with Ms Munro’s report that he posed a high risk and was not manageable in the community even with protective factors, and thus imposed an OLR.

Counsel for the appellant submitted that the sentencing judge had wrongly discounted elements of Ms Harris’ report, which concluded that the appellant posed a medium risk, and thus misdirected himself on the evidence. The sentencing judge had assessed Ms Harris’ report as being “the product of a comparatively superficial investigation which appeared to rely significantly on the accounts given or opinions presented by the appellant”.

Criminally versatile

Delivering the opinion of the court, Lady Dorrian said of Mrs Munro’s report generally: “Mrs Munro, for her first report, conducted 17 hours of interview with the appellant and consulted a vast array of other material relevant to the assessment of risk. She supplemented her examination of school, social work and prison records with interviews of individuals, who could speak to those records, conducting interviews with a wide range of individuals. In particular she consulted the appellant’s discipline record in prison, and spoke to prison officers and mental health workers, both for her initial report and her supplementary one.”

In contrast, she said of Ms Harris’ report: “[Ms Harris] was heavily dependent on written records, generally without confirming the detail with those who were able to speak to the records. She took no account – and seems to have made no inquiry as to – his behaviour when in custody. Notwithstanding accepted best practice to use multiple sources of information for each area being assessed, she relied excessively on self-reporting by the appellant without cross-checking with more objective sources.”

Of the proposition that the appellant would be motivated to reform himself, Lady Dorrian said: “Any evidence for motivation substantially rests on the appellant’s own statements to Ms Harris, and some limited, if overly optimistic expressions of hope by his mother, who stated that she believed he had calmed down considerably since childhood, and can be more considered in his approach. Ms Harris seems to have accepted this at face value. How it squares with current, or other more recent, offending is left unexplained.”

She continued: “His offending behaviour in custody included the use of an illegally acquired SIM card to make abusive and threatening calls to SLD. Mrs Munro considered that the appellant’s anti-authoritarian attitudes to professionals are also likely to interfere with his ability to develop the kind of therapeutic rapport that is required for lasting behavioural change. The sentencing judge was entitled to conclude that this view was in accord with the evidence as a whole.”

Lady Dorrian concluded: “Given that the nature, extent and ongoing consequences of the psychopathic traits was an issue upon which the experts were split, on the evidence we have narrated the sentencing judge was clearly entitled to prefer the evidence of Mrs. Munro. He was entitled to accept on the evidence that the appellant lacked remorse, was superficially charming, was manipulative, callous, lied pathologically, was criminally versatile, sexually promiscuous, had poor behavioural controls and a parasitic lifestyle with a history of early behavioural problems.”

For these reasons, the appeal was refused.

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