Last year, James Houten was sentenced to 23 months’ imprisonment (discounted from 30 months for pleading guilty) after admitting his involvement in the supply of class A drug, cocaine, contrary to section 4(3)(b) of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

Houten went on to appeal the sentence on the basis that Sheriff McIntyre’s decision was ‘excessive’ as his involvement in supplying the drugs only happened on one occasion. Houten told the court he was helping a friend by providing a safe house and holding more than £4,00 worth of cocaine, and that he made ‘no direct financial gain’ from doing so.

Additionally, the court heard Houten was the primary carer for his partner’s 18-year-old disabled son and played ‘a very important part’ in his life.

It was submitted that supplying of drugs was out of character for Houten and – having only had old convictions for road traffic offences up until the present charge – the appellant had a ‘generally good record’.

While Sheriff McIntyre felt “prison [was] the only way in which the gravity of the offence [could] by properly reflected”, the High Court of Justiciary Appeal Court quashed the sentence and imposed a Community Payback Order instead.

Lord Drummond Young and Turnbull considered this an ‘exceptional’ case where the sheriff had paid excessive attention to deterring other offenders and gave insufficient weight to the singular circumstances in which the appellant found himself.

Deciding on a Community Payback Order as sufficient punishment for the appellant, Lord Drummond Young concluded:

“We would propose that such an order should be for the period of three years and should be subject to unpaid work requirement of 250 hours to be completed over a period of 12 months.”

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