THREE Ross-shire youths harshly rebuked by a sheriff for their “disgusting and dangerous behaviour” when they fired air pistols at children on Rosemarkie beach have narrowly avoided custodial sentences.
The visit to the beach on the Black Isle last April turned into a nightmare for the eight youngsters under 16 when they were repeatedly shot at on the legs, arms, and bodies by Grant Mightens, Alexander MacIver and Callum Dingwall.
Some of the shots were fired from a car which had stopped alongside the children as they tried to get away from the beach following the first attacks.
Sentencing the trio at Inverness Sheriff Court last Friday, Sheriff Margaret Neilson told them: “As I said you are all extremely lucky the injuries were not more serious and you are not appearing in a higher court.
“Your collective behaviour was disgusting and dangerous and I find it hard to believe none of you could have known the potential consequences of your actions and the risk of injury.”
The sheriff said in law she was obliged to consider whether there was an alternative to custody and she was narrowly persuaded that this was the case.
She sentenced them to 300 hours unpaid work each and placed them on a curfew for six months from 7pm to 6am, warning that if they breached the orders they would be brought back to court and sent to prison or a young offenders institution.
At a previous court hearing all three admitted assaulting eight teenagers under the age of 16 by firing the air pistols at them to their injury on April 21 last year.
Sentence had been deferred for reports on Mightens (22) of Upper Docharty House, MacIver (19) of Peffery Road and Dingwall (18) of Holly Croft, Obsdale Road, Alness.
Sheriff Neilson had previously been told the youngsters were on Rosemarkie beach when the trio, accompanied by a female, passed them.
The three accused began pointing black pistols at the group and began firing.
“Shots were either fired at the ground or at their legs and then their bodies. The pellets were described as steel ones, airsoft pellets,” said depute fiscal Michelle Molley.
“As the group walked away they turned and observed the accused reloading the guns by a bench on the beach, Mightens was observed to have two guns and a bag of ammunition. The other two had one gun each.
“One was struck on the leg. Another was struck twice on his thigh and his shin. A third was struck on his arm and on his elbow. A fourth was struck on the chest. A fifth was struck on the leg just below his knee. A sixth was struck twice on the leg and once on the back.
“As the shots were being fired the group tried to get away. One of the complainers was observed by his group to be upset, and his upper right arm had a red circular mark and was bleeding.”
Ms Molley added: “At the far end of the beach one of the complainers got into his mother’s car and left the scene. Some of the others asked the parent to wait and allow the group to leave with her but she refused.”
The fiscal said the shooters then got into Mightens’s car and drove alongside them, stopped, wound down three windows and MacIver and Dingwall began shooting at them again before driving off.
“One of the group was struck twice in the stomach and injured,” said the fiscal.
“One strike caused a small wound. Another was struck on the left hand causing bruising and another was struck twice on his thigh causing bruising.”
She said Mightens was identified as one of the attackers and was arrested by police in Dingwall and his accomplices later surrendered themselves.
Four guns were recovered and were found to be small air pistols powered by carbon dioxide designed to discharge BBs and were classed as firearms.
Rory Gowans for Mightens, an apprentice electrician, said he apologised unreservedly and was ashamed of his conduct.
Sheriff Neilson said: “He is very lucky he is not in a higher court facing much more serious offences.”
Mr Gowans added that Mightens wished he could turn the clock back and couldn’t understand how he reacted in what was “a moment of madness”.
Sheriff Neilson said the reports indicated that the accused were immature, thought they were hard and acted with bravado.
Solicitor Jamie McNair for Maciver said it was clear he had no concept of the potential consequences of his actions.
Sheriff Neilson said shooting at someone with an airgun may have put their eye out or killed them.
Mr McNair said MacIver had been diagnosed with ADHD but he didn’t seek to rely on that for his actions.
He had one previous conviction in 2013, had completed a course a fabricator/welder and had been offered an apprenticeship.
“He is under no illusion custody is at the forefront of your mind,” said the solicitor.
“But I suggest the public interest could be better served by the imposition of unpaid work.”
Dingwall’s solicitor Ian Moir said his client was 17 at the time but didn’t shirk his responsibility. He said he was a long way into his apprenticeship and was highly thought of by his employer.
He added his potential had been put in jeopardy by the events of April 21 last year and he too had no previous convictions.