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HMA v Keir Johnston


Jun 6, 2024

At the High Court in Glasgow, Lady Drummond sentenced Keir Johnston to 54 months’ imprisonment. The offender had previously pled guilty to assault to injury and danger of life. He has also been issued with a non-harassment order.

Lady Drumonnond told Johnston on sentencing:

“You pled guilty to assaulting the complainer to her injury and to the danger of her life on 6 March 2022.

The circumstances were that there was an argument between you when you were both outside. You pinned her to the ground placing both knees on her arms so she was unable to move. You then began strangling her with both hands. Initially she was able to scream. She feared for her life and believed you intended to kill her. You were very forceful. The strangling lasted about 20 seconds. She did not lose consciousness but felt very close to doing so. A child heard the screaming, saw what was happening and tried to get you off. You stopped and went inside. The woman tried to contact people for help. You came back outside and threatened to finish her off. You began strangling her again when she was on the ground. When the child interrupted again asking you to stop you left stating “somebody is going to die”. You had a knife in your hands and attempted to self-harm. The woman tried to take it off you but you brandished it at her to stop her from doing so.

The child witnessed you with the knife and thought you were going to kill the woman. The complainer had bruises, marks, tenderness and pain on her neck and throat.

It is recognised medically that external pressure applied to the neck by strangulation may lead to unconsciousness, decreased brain function and ultimately asphyxia and death. Applying low pressure can cause unconsciousness within 5 to 10 seconds. Death can occur within a few minutes. Strangulation is an inherently dangerous and life threatening act.

You previously used violence against the same woman, including attempting to strangle her previously.

I have a victim impact statement from her. She says the impact of your behaviour on her has been so immense it is hard to articulate. She suffers in almost every aspect of her life: emotionally, psychologically and financially. She states that the effect of your actions will last forever. She cannot understand your lack of remorse. She says you have done nothing to indicate to her that you have genuine remorse or empathy towards her.   

You were 36 when you committed this offence and are now 39 years old. You have two children. You have no previous convictions.

A psychologists report obtained on your behalf explains that you have voluntarily attended therapy. According to that report you have made commendable progress since you have offended, have been willing to take responsibility for your behaviour and shown genuine commitment to addressing the underlying issues that contributed to your past behaviour.

The criminal justice and social work report assesses you as a minimal risk of reoffending and a moderate risk of further domestic offending. You are described as remorseful and with insight into your behaviour. You acknowledge the physical harm you have caused as well as the potentially long lasting emotional and psychological harm on the complainer as a result of your behaviour. You are assessed as suitable for community disposals.

The criminal justice report mentions a previous psychiatric report indicated that you have an acute stress reaction and adjustment disorder which likely contributed on some level to your behaviour but does not provide a psychiatric defence.

You have previously worked and run your own business. I have read the character references provided which explain that you have made positive contributions to your local community. You have a new partner.

The only appropriate sentence for a crime of this gravity is imprisonment. The features that make the repeated strangulation more serious are that you did so in the presence of a child, that you made threats to kill and brandished a knife during the incident, that it was a domestic offence where you had previously used violence and strangulation against the same woman. In mitigation, you have worked hard previously, have positive character references, no previous convictions, have suffered from acute stress disorder, have taken steps to address your behaviour and shown remorse and insight when discussing your behaviour with professionals. 

In all the circumstances I sentence you to 5 years imprisonment (6 months attributable to this offence involving abuse of your ex-partner). That sentence is reduced to 54 months because of the stage you pled guilty. It is backdated to 9 May.  

I also make a non-harassment order with condition that you do not approach or contact or attempt to approach or contact the complainer for ten years.”

6 June 2024