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HMA v Mark Law


Nov 9, 2022

At the High Court in Edinburgh, Lord Arthurson sentenced Mark Law to an Order for Lifelong Restriction after he pled guilty to brandishing a knife at staff at a mental health facility, as well as assault and behaving in a threatening an abusive manner. The punishment part of the sentence was set at 3 years.


On sentencing, Lord Arthurson said:

"Mark Law, on 1 December 2021 your case was the subject of a remit to this court by the sheriff at Dundee, you having on 3 September 2021 at a first diet pled guilty to a section 76 indictment containing five charges.  You have been in custody in connection with these proceedings since 3 June 2021. On 31 January 2022 in this court a risk assessment order in terms of section 210B of the Criminal Proceedings (Scotland) Act 1995 was made in respect of you, the court on that date being satisfied that the appropriate statutory threshold had been reached for the making of such an order on the whole information before it.  A comprehensive and extremely detailed risk assessment report is now available. The issue for determination by the court today centres therefore in general on a suitable disposal to make in your case, and in particular on whether the risk criteria expressed in section 210E of the 1995 Act have been met and indeed whether, as a result, you can properly be located within that category of exceptional offenders for whom an Order for Lifelong Restriction is the only appropriate disposal.

"The information before the court concerning the index offences comes from a variety of sources, principally the agreed Crown narrative of events together with information supplied by you to professionals to whom you have spoken in the course of this process.  On the morning of 25 March 2021 you purchased a knife and made your way to the Alloway Centre, a large complex specialising in the mental health treatment of the public, where you yourself had received treatment in the past.  You did so, on your own account, with the intent to attack and kill staff within.  You were intoxicated with crack cocaine at the time of this offending.  You entered the toilet at the Alloway Centre and made stabbing motions in the mirror in order to motivate yourself to be able to cause harm.  While shouting apparently abusive remarks, you leaned through an open hatch and lashed around the reception area with the knife before throwing it in the direction of two female staff members.  The knife lodged in the mousepad of one of these staff members as she sat at her desk.  You made off from the Centre and were not traced.  On 25 May 2021 at High Street, Monifeith, you assaulted and threatened to stab a female member of the public.

"You are now 44 years old. You have a significant history of polydrug misuse and a relevant psychiatric history. There is a discernible pattern of offending within your criminal antecedents. You have been convicted of assault to injury on a social worker (2016), possession of a knife (2018), threatening and abusive behaviour towards a health worker or workers (2018), in terms of which a letter was sent by you to your GP surgery outlining your wish to commit murder, and an offence under the Communications Act 2003 in respect of threats to the police (2020).  You have for some years borne a grievance against certain mental health workers working out of the Alloway Centre.  An earlier report obtained by the sheriff in November 2021 from a psychiatrist noted your potential risk of serious harm as being most likely to be directed towards persons in health or care roles, with the opinion expressed that this was likely to be a chronic and ongoing risk.  The author of a criminal justice social work report prepared in respect of you expressed significant concerns about the high risk of serious harm presented by you in the community, potentially to the public and more specifically towards medical staff and professionals involved in your care, with females potentially being at a higher risk.

"The author of the risk assessment report and its multiple appendices has, in summary, concluded that you appear to have a capacity to seriously endanger the lives and the physical or psychological well-being of the public at large and that the risk presented by you is high.  The author advises that you meet the diagnostic criteria for a substance related disorder and that you could also be considered as presenting with both paranoid personality disorder and antisocial personality disorder.  In appendix 2 the author further confirms that your score is at the threshold for psychopathic personality disorder, albeit her view is that you have scored on some items in the relevant checklist through chronic lifestyle choices as opposed to psychopathology per se.  I further note that in the view of the author of the risk assessment report you must be considered as presenting a high risk of perpetrating physical violence with a weapon.

"In concluding that the risk presented by you is high, the author has stressed in her report that this was a difficult decision to reach.  She has noted, however, that your risk factors have not shown amenability to change.  The author, having completed her report, has reported further that she then proceeded on 17 August 2022 to engage with you in an offender feedback session, in the course of which she explained to you the content and conclusions of her report.  When she advised that her overall analysis had led to a high risk rating for you, the author records that you responded by, in a calm and measured manner, making threats of very serious violence, referring to certain professionals in derogatory terms and making remarks such as and including  that you would “take life and take my own life”, “there would be lots of blood”, “an OLR will bring death” and “If I get an OLR, I will dedicate my life to murder”.  You referred to a particular type of bladed weapon and stated that you “could confidently kill”.  In addition you made threats to members of the judiciary. Finally, in a letter to the medical officer at HMP Perth a psychiatrist has further reported that on 16 September 2022 at a review at the psychiatric clinic at the prison you made a threat to kill your former community psychiatric nurse and used abusive language at the appointment to the reviewing psychiatrist.

"I have listened with considerable care to the submissions advanced on your behalf this morning in mitigation.  In particular I note what has been said about your family background and parental relationships; the apology which you have instructed your counsel to make this morning to your victims for the fear and trauma caused to them; what has been said about your insight into the driving forces of your criminal behaviour, namely your mental health issues and illicit drug use, which you have now undertaken to discontinue; and your future plans for university study on release into the community. It was further submitted that you have demonstrated periods of stability, that your record does not represent recidivism and that in the past you have not been managed by forensic mental health services.

"Turning now to disposal, having carefully considered the terms of the multiple reports available to the court, together with the particular facts of your case, the mitigation to which I have already made reference and your criminal record, I confirm that I am satisfied that, on a balance of probabilities, the relevant risk criteria expressed in section 210E of the 1995 Act are met in your case.  Put short, the index offending libelled on the present indictment can rightly be viewed as an escalated component of a pattern of behaviour on your part such as to demonstrate that there is a likelihood that you, if at liberty, will seriously endanger the public at large.  It is of particular note and concern that you have been assessed as presenting a high risk of perpetrating instrumental violence.  The author of the risk assessment report reached her conclusions in respect of your high level of risk prior to the offender feedback session which I have summarised, above.  Your conduct in the course of that session including in particular the calmly delivered lethal threats made by you therein has fortified my own view that the relevant risk criteria are met in your case.

"In all of these circumstances, I am therefore today on this indictment making an Order for Lifelong Restriction in respect of you.  That order constitutes a sentence of imprisonment for an indeterminate period.  I must also fix what is referred to as the punishment part of this disposal, being the period which you must spend in full in prison before you can apply to be released on licence.  Had I not been imposing this order, the headline custodial term of the sentence which I would have imposed on this indictment would have been 11 years, on an in cumulo basis, including a total period of one year for the various bail aggravations libelled.  The part of this period which would represent an appropriate period to satisfy the sentencing requirements of retribution and deterrence is 9 years.  Taking your plea of guilty by section 76 procedure into account at this stage in the sentencing exercise, I require to discount that period of 9 years to one of 6 years.  Having then duly applied the relevant statutory formula, I therefore fix the punishment part of your sentence at a period of 3 years.

"Please be clear, however, that the sentence imposed today is not a sentence of 3 years imprisonment.  It is instead an Order for Lifelong Restriction, which is a sentence of imprisonment for an indeterminate period.  You will not be eligible to apply for parole until the punishment part has been concluded and you must not assume that you will automatically be released at that time.  You will be released only when the Parole Board determines that it is no longer necessary for the protection of the public that you should continue to be confined in prison.  When you are released - if indeed you are ever released at all - is in law a matter for the Parole Board.

"Finally, this disposal will run from 3 June 2021, being the date of your initial remand in custody in this case."