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HMA v Arran Swift


Apr 10, 2024

At the High Court in Dundee Lord Arthurson imposed an Order for Lifelong Restriction on Aaron Swift after the offender pled guitly to a contravention of section 1 of the Domestic Abuse Scotland Act 2018.

On sentencing Lord Arthurson made the following remarks in court:

"Arran Swift, on 11 October 2023 you appeared at Edinburgh High Court on a section 195 remit from the sheriff at Kirkcaldy, on which date a section 210B risk assessment order was made by the Court in respect of this indictment.  You had on 7 August 2023 at a trial diet at Kirkcaldy tendered a plea of guilty to a single charge indictment libelling a contravention of section 1 of the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018.  You have been remanded in custody in respect of these proceedings since 21 January 2022.  A full report from the accredited risk assessor instructed by the Court is now available.

The index offence in this case involved your engagement between October 2020 and January 2022 in a sustained course of abusive behaviour towards your victim.  You used weapons, namely a knife and glass bottle, and assaulted her by seizing her by the throat and restricting her breathing.  You inflicted trauma on her head and body rendering her unconscious.  You killed her pet animal and mutilated its body.  You repeatedly threatened to kill your victim and her family and to burn her house down.  These elements are simply some parts of the course of conduct libelled against you.  You exhibited and exercised, put short, extreme and sustained coercive control over your victim over a period of some 16 months, all while you were on a community payback order for directly analogous offending.

You are now aged 37.  You have to date accrued 33 groups of previous convictions, five at sheriff and jury level and one in the High Court.  Your counsel this morning has referred to your record as a “fairly lamentable” one. The five most recent groups of convictions have all been in respect of domestically aggravated offending, including stalking offences.  You have served 19 custodial sentences.  Your High Court conviction in 2012 related to an offence of hamesucken and robbery.  I note that the risk assessor in her report advises in respect of that conviction that you and a co-accused had watched the female occupant of the property prior to breaking in, and that you threatened her with a screwdriver and then tied her up.  When you left the property you cut her telephone line, took her door keys and locked her in the property.

The sheriff in making the remit had available to him a detailed criminal justice social work report dated 4 September 2023 prepared by a senior practitioner.  The author of that report describes your index offending as involving extreme violence, control and somewhat sadistic behaviour toward your victim.  The author further notes that by your own account when you are heavily intoxicated and in a particular psychological state you have felt an overwhelming desire to inflict extreme pain on another, the potential subject being indiscriminately selected by you based on their presence in your vicinity and availability.  The author highlights your binge drinking and use of illicit substances including methadone, heroin and Valium.  You advised the author that at the time of the index offending you were consuming vast quantities of hallucinogenic substances.  The author reports that information from Police Scotland indicates your use of different aliases within relationships.  She further notes a lack of empathy in your presentation and states that you present as an individual who has no anxiety about consequences.  The author concludes that there is an extremely high likelihood of further analogous offending and that you have the capacity to cause lethal harm.

I turn now to the report dated 9 February 2024 prepared by the accredited risk assessor in this case.  The assessor concludes that if at liberty in the community you would present a high risk of serious harm.  You have a long-standing diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder.  This is confirmed at page 6 of the psychiatric report dated 4 April 2023. The assessor, however, has concluded that your difficulties do not seem to be fully explained by such a diagnosis and that therefore such a diagnosis may not be applicable.  You have suffered adverse childhood experiences in what was undoubtedly a particularly challenging upbringing.  You are reported by the assessor as having pervasive and long-standing difficulties in respect of your interpersonal functioning.  The assessor states that you have scored high for the assessment of psychopathy, albeit I note that on the relevant assessment tool the author reports that you have a result just above the cut off score recognised in the UK criminal justice system. 

You have been assessed as presenting a risk of harm to others that has been persistent over time, and that you have offended violently against strangers and your intimate partners.  Your offending is considered by the assessor to have been pervasive.  You have since early childhood found it almost impossible to accept responsibility for your behaviour and the assessor concludes that it may be unreasonable to expect this to change.  You are reported as having had eight prior intimate partners and the assessor records that you have exhibited concerning behaviour towards seven of these, as well as evidence of escalation in terms of the severity of violence that you have perpetrated against your former partners.  Risk factors identified by the assessor include the chronicity, diversity and serious nature of your offending, your lack of insight into your risk, your history of problematic relationships, your significant issues with substances and your limited past engagement with and response to supervision and to interventions made available to you.  Your own description of fantasies of harming others in the past and what the assessor terms as last resort thinking are further highlighted features of your case.

I have listened with care to the submissions advanced on your behalf this morning in mitigation by your counsel, and note in particular what has been said in respect of your lengthy period of remand in custody to date, the utility of your plea of guilty and your personal, family and mental health background, including your autism spectrum disorder diagnosis, confirmed by the assessor in April 2023. I also note your counsel’s principal submission on disposal, namely that an extended sentence, with the protection and strict enforcement of the recommendations for your treatment and future management as set out by the risk assessor at paragraph 4.3.1 of her report, during a lengthy extension period, would suffice to protect the public in your case.

In this case the primary sentencing issue before the Court is whether the risk criteria expressed in section 210E of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995 have been met and whether you can accordingly properly be located within that category of exceptional offenders for whom an order for lifelong restriction is the only appropriate disposal.  Having regard to the index offending, your extensive and relevant criminal antecedents and indeed to the whole risk assessment material now available, I have concluded that the nature and gravity, and indeed the pattern, of your offending behaviour are such as to demonstrate that there is a likelihood that you, if at liberty, will seriously endanger the lives, or physical or psychological well-being, of members of the public at large.

Turning to disposal, I confirm that in all of these circumstances I propose today to make an order for lifelong restriction in respect of you.  That order constitutes a sentence of imprisonment for an indeterminate period.  I also require to fix what is referred to as the punishment part of your sentence, 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 selected on this indictment would have been one of 9 years.  The part of this period which would represent an appropriate period to satisfy the sentencing requirements of retribution and deterrence is in my view 8 years.  Taking the timing of your plea of guilty at a trial diet into account at this stage in the sentencing exercise, I will now discount that period of 8 years to one of 7 years and 6 months.  Having then applied the statutory formula, I accordingly fix the punishment part of this disposal at 3 years and 9 months.

Please be clear, however, that the sentence imposed by the Court today is not a sentence of 3 years and 9 months 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 be automatically released at that time.  You will be released only when the Parole Board for Scotland 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 in due course.

Notwithstanding the interruption of your remand period by your concurrent service of a short separate custodial sentence imposed in May 2022, I confirm in the interests of clarity and totality that the sentence imposed by the Court today will be backdated to 21 January 2022, being the date of your initial remand into custody in these proceedings.

Finally, the Court today makes a non-harassment order in respect of you.  You will not approach or contact, or attempt to approach or contact, in person or in any manner, for an indefinite period, the complainer named in the indictment.