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HMA v Stephen McHarg


Jun 30, 2023

At the High Court in Edinburgh today, Lord Fairley imposed an extended sentence of 14 years on Stephen McHarg, after the offender pled guilty to attempted murder aggravated by racial prejudice. The extended sentence comprises a custodial element of 9 years and an extension period of 5 years.

On sentencing Lord Fairley made the following remarks:

"Stephen Craig McHarg, you pled guilty at a continued preliminary hearing to the attempted murder of a man who was a complete stranger to you. The assault on him by you and your co-accused was unprovoked. It was prolonged, and involved repeatedly striking him on the head and body with a knife, punching and kicking him on the head and body, stamping on his head and body and striking him on the head and body with pieces of wood and a bottle. One eye-witness who saw the assault described you and your co-accused as being “like hyenas”.

The severity of this assault is aggravated  by the fact that it was motivated by racial prejudice towards your victim. He is a Ghanaian national who lives in Scotland with his partner and their children. That racial aggravation will be reflected in the sentence that I impose today.   

Your victim suffered various incised wounds to his head and body, including a penetrating stab wound to his left chest area. These will leave him with permanent scars. He also had bruising to the frontal lobe of his brain, a skull fracture, fractures to the bones around his left eye socket and a fractured cheekbone which required surgery.  

You have twenty previous convictions in respect of thirty separate offences, including five for violence.  I note, however, that you have only been convicted on indictment for violence on one previous occasion. That was for an assault to permanent disfigurement in respect of which you received a prison term of 12 months.

Given the severity of this latest offence you will appreciate that only a substantial custodial sentence is appropriate. In addition to punishment, public protection is a material factor that I require to take into account.

The risk assessor advises that you have an anti-social personality disorder but are not high on the psychopathy scale. She assesses you as medium rather than high risk and notes that it is possible for you to engage in a risk management plan subject to supervision. On that basis, it is her opinion that that you have the potential for treatment and rehabilitation. 

I have listened to all that has been said on your behalf today and I am persuaded – if only just – that an Order for Lifelong Restriction would not be an appropriate sentence. I am, however, satisfied that the normal period of licence to which you would be subject following your release from a custodial sentence would not be adequate to protect the public from the risk of serious harm that you present. 

I accordingly propose to impose what is known as an extended sentence, comprising a custodial element and a period of post-release supervision, known as an extension period.

Had you been convicted after trial, I would have imposed an extended sentence comprising a custodial period of 11 years and 6 months (of which 18 months would have been attributable to the racial aggravation) and an extension period of 5 years.  In light of the timing of your plea I will modify the custodial element of that sentence to a period of custody of 9 years. 

That results in a total extended sentence of 14 years, comprising a custodial element of 9 years, and an extended licence period of 5 years.

The custodial period of that sentence will be backdated to 15 October 2021 when you were first remanded into custody.

The second part of the sentence – the extended period of licence – will be served in the community. From the date of your release, you will be under licence for an extended period. The conditions of your licence will be fixed by the Scottish Ministers . If, during the extension period, you fail to comply with the conditions of your licence, it may be revoked; and you may be returned to custody for a further period in respect of this case. The court also has power to deal with you if you commit another offence after your release and while you are on licence. "


30 June 2023