Social workers’ thug plea enrages sheriff

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A SHERIFF has launched a blistering attack on city social workers after they recommended he let off an armed teenage thug who threatened to kill a couple in their own home.

William Hamilton threatened to kill Charles Murphy and went on to cut his face with a knife during a raid on his home in Greenbank Lane, Morningside. He also threatened his wife.

The 16-year-old – just 15 at the time – had been drunk and armed with a knife during the terrifying incident. Despite this, social workers appealed for the sentence to be deferred for good behaviour.

But veteran Sheriff James Scott told Edinburgh Sheriff Court yesterday “I just wonder what planet some of these people live on – not the same as mine”, when Hamilton appeared yesterday.

Hamilton, of Firrhill Park, Oxgangs, had pleaded guilty at a previous hearing to assaulting Charles Murphy in his home on December 9 last year and sentence had been deferred for background reports.

Defence solicitor Charles Morrison told Sheriff Scott that the social work report was “very full and positive” and it recommended that sentence be deferred, but even he admitted: “I think the offence is too serious for that.”

After the case, Scottish Conservative chief whip John Lamont said Sheriff Scott was right to have ignored the plea for excessive leniency by social 

He said: “It seems there are always reams of excuses for thugs who commit crimes like this. Thankfully in this instance, the sheriff didn’t fall for them.

“This was a brutal attack which will have not only injured the homeowner, but no doubt scarred his family for life.

“It makes you wonder what level of offending it would take for this social worker to recommend a 
custodial sentence.”

Fiscal depute Karon Rollo, prosecuting, told the court how a group of teenagers had dared each other to commit a crime and Hamilton said he would carry out a housebreaking.

Mr Murphy and his wife and teenage daughter were preparing for bed when Mr Murphy went to lock the front door, not knowing that Hamilton was in the house. He returned to the bedroom to be confronted by a hooded figure brandishing a knife.

Ms Rollo said the teenager was drunk and threatened to kill Mr Murphy and his wife.

Mr Murphy grabbed the youth’s hand and during a struggle the knife cut his face. The daughter came into the room as her father got Hamilton to the floor and the police were called.

Mr Morrison, defending Hamilton, told Sheriff Scott that his client had been heavily intoxicated, had no recollection of what he had done and was disgusted by his behaviour.

The solicitor added that Hamilton was no longer associating with the group that had dared each other to commit a crime and had expressed remorse.

It was a year since the offence, said the lawyer, and Hamilton had been on bail since then, subject to a curfew between 7pm and 7am. This had led to a closer relationship between Hamilton and his father, who was very supportive of his son.

Sheriff Scott told Hamilton: “This sort of situation often leads to very serious, if not fatal, injuries to occupiers. The court owes a duty to protect people from this sort of behaviour.”

He placed Hamilton on an 18-month community payback order under supervision and ordered him to perform 225 hours of unpaid work.