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HMA v John-Ross Rennie


Nov 28, 2023

At the High Court in Edinburgh today, Lord Scott imposed a Community Payback Order of 150 hours unpaid work and 6 months supervision on John-Ross Rennie. The offender was found guilty of reset relating to cryptocurrency.

Lord Scott told Rennie:

“Having originally faced a charge of robbery while acting with others, you were found guilty of reset of a quantity of cryptocurrency, namely 23.5 Bitcoin agreed on your behalf as valued at £109,601.46 at time of transfer into your Bitcoin account.  

Before passing sentence, I ordered a Criminal Justice Social Work Report to give me more information about you and allow me to consider the most appropriate sentence. I now have that report.

It appears that you told the author of the report that you transferred the majority of the Bitcoin out of your account as you had been told to do. The report suggests that you had siphoned off approximately £2,000 for yourself. Mr Guarino has advised me today that this is not correct and that the sum you siphoned off was far higher, being in the region of £35,000. Although your candour is to be commended, this suggests that you were not as scared as you have claimed.

You appear to have accepted in the report that you were aware when the Bitcoin was transferred into your account that it had come from your victim’s account. That is not what I have you noted as saying in evidence. In evidence, you said that you had no idea where the Bitcoin had come from until after the robbery. Mr Guarino has explained today that your position remains as it was in evidence and that this is another area where the social worker has become confused. I still regard that as an incredible account which is obviously self-serving and intended to assist you in the trial.

It seems to me that your role in what happened was pivotal, even if the jury decided that it did not extend to participation in the plan to carry out the robbery. Without the robbers’ reliance on what you knew, however, it is hard to see the robbery being able to proceed or at least to proceed as it did. It was suggested at the trial that the victim might be considered the perfect victim due to his obvious reluctance to report the robbery or assist the police or authorities in any way at all. What you knew about him would mean that this would be apparent to you.

I formed an impression during your evidence that you sought to hide your knowledge of the crime behind technical detail about the operation of Bitcoin. It also appeared to me that it was suggested on your behalf that the various transactions carried out by you after receiving the Bitcoin were all entirely open and transparent, as opposed to being a reasonably elaborate means of effectively laundering the significant funds which were the proceeds of the robbery.

However, leaving aside the potentially aggravating features of your crime, what you were convicted of is serious but much less serious than the charge you originally faced. It involves no violence. It is also the same as the charge to which you offered to plead guilty at the outset of the trial. I require to take that into account. Having done so, given that the plea was offered only just before the trial and came 20 months after you first appeared on petition, 15 months after the original preliminary hearing and 4 months after the first dedicated floating trial, I consider that there has been no utilitarian value in your offer to plead guilty. Accordingly, I do not propose to make any adjustment to the sentence on account of it.

You are 29 years old and have no previous convictions. You have significant family commitments. The fact that you are a first offender, albeit involved in an elaborate scheme to launder the proceeds of a robbery, is significant. I give particular weight to that fact. I have also considered all that is said in the Criminal Justice Social Work Report and all that has been carefully said on your behalf by Mr Guarino.  

In the circumstances, I am proposing to impose a Community Payback Order upon you today.  The Community Payback Order will require you to undertake 2 requirements that I am going to explain to you.  You should listen carefully as I will ask you firstly to confirm that you understand the terms of the Order that I am going to impose and secondly, that you are willing to comply with the Order.

A Community Payback order is a punishment that requires you to pay back to the community for the offence that you have committed.  I am satisfied that the offence is serious enough to warrant my imposition of this Order because it involves you receiving and distributing the proceeds of a robbery amounting to a sum in excess of £100,000, as well as siphoning some of the proceeds for yourself.

From today, you will be subject to a Community Payback Order for a period of 6 months.  The Order which I am imposing will contain a requirement to:-

Perform an Unpaid Work or other activity work requirement of 150 hours.  This work will be carried out under the instruction of your responsible officer who will be a member of the Criminal Justice Social Department that is a social worker with whom you must stay in touch.  He/she is responsible for allocating you to the work that you will undertake which must be completed under his/her supervision and in a satisfactory manner.  You must report to this social worker as required.  This work must be completed within a period of 3 months from today’s date.

And, an Offender Supervision requirement for a period of 6 months.  During this period you must attend appointments with your responsible officer at the place and times instructed, for the purposes of promoting your rehabilitation/your continuing good behaviour. 

While the Order is in force, you should report any change to your address and the times that you work if you are working or when you attend school or college etc. to your responsible officer.

If you fail to comply with any of the requirements that are being imposed in this Order, you will be reported back to this court and be dealt with for that failure.  The Court will either issue a warrant for your arrest or you will be cited to come to court.  If it is proved that you failed to comply without reasonable excuse with the terms of any requirement, the court can fine you, revoke the order and deal with you as if the order had not been imposed, revoke the order and sentence you to imprisonment, vary the order to impose a new requirement or vary, revoke or discharge any requirement imposed by the Order, or impose both a fine and vary the Order.

This Order is a sentence.  If your circumstances change while the order is in force, you or your supervising officer will be entitled to apply to the court to have the order varied, revoked or discharged.”