Jailed for stabbing his two friends during a night out

The High Court at Livingston
The High Court at Livingston

A man who stabbed two of his friends in a Glasgow nightclub has been jailed for nine years for what a judge described as “a vicious, unprovoked and unexplained attack”.

James McHugh, from Bishhopbriggs, was caught on CCTV as he launched a surprise knife attack on his pals Paul Toland and Joseph Downs in city centre venue ‘69 Below’.

Giving evidence, McHugh’s pals failed to identify McHugh as their attacker when they were shown the incriminating footage.

However, after viewing the same CCTV images, a jury returned unanimous verdicts finding the accused guilty of attempting to murder Mr Toland and of assaulting Mr Downs to his severe injury.

When McHugh appeared for sentenced yesterday (Wednesday, June 21) Jim Wallace, defending, told the High Court at Livingston that he still protested his innocence but accepted the verdicts of the jury.

He said the friendly relationship between McHugh and his two victims had continued since the incident on May 23, 2015.

He said: “He’s been visited by the complainers in Barlinnie, so it appears there is no bad blood between the complainers and the accused. However, that does not retract from the verdict of the jury.

“As the social inquiry report reveals he benefits from a stable relationship with his girlfriend and has enjoyed through his life the support of a stable and loving family.

“It is clear from the report there’s a significant history of employment and I’m advised that employment will be available to him on his release from custody although that may be a significant time away.”

Mr Wallace revealed that McHugh had sustained a significant injury to his left arm as a result of it being cut in a glass door and had severely damaged tendons.

He added: “I’m advised he’ll make a full recovery from that and will be rehabilitated to the extent he’s be able to resume employment.

“There is little that can be said regarding the offence itself. It is clear that consumption of drink and/or drugs was a factor.

“It’s clear he faces a substantial period of custody. If nothing else it will allow him to reflect on other matters such as consumption of alcohol and consumption of drugs, illicit or otherwise. “

McHugh, 23, of Brodick Square, Bishopbriggs, had denied attempting to murder Mr Toland by repeatedly striking him on the body with a knife to his severe injury, permanent impairment and to the danger of his life.

He also denied stabbing Joseph Downs on the body with the blade to his severe injury.

Passing sentence, judge Lord Clark told McHugh: “This was a vicious unprovoked and unexplained attack on two people, each of whom you knew.

“You carried out a surprise assault on the first complainer, who was turning away from you.

“You inflicted three penetrating stab wounds to his chest back and arm, one of which caused a haemothorax (pooling of blood inside the chest).

“The injuries will result in permanent disfigurement and permanent impairment and endangered his life.

“You also struck out and stabbed Joseph Downs in the chest.”

Lord Clark said he took into account everything that had been said about McHugh and the fact that he had been assessed as being at medium risk of offending and high risk of harm.

“I do bear in mind that these conclusions are affected by your denial of culpability the offence.

“I also bear in mind that you have a fairly minor criminal record and have not previously served a custodial sentence.

“The attempted murder and assault you committed are offences of seriously violent crime. There is no appropriate alternative to a substantial period in custody.

“The assaults were part of the same incident. Had I been sentencing you for the attempted murder of the first complainer I would have imposed a sentence of eight years.

“Had I been sentencing you for assault to severe injury on the second complainer in isolation two years imprisonment.

“Making these sentences run successively would be excessive, but concurrent sentences would not take account of the criminality involved.

“Exercising such leniency as I can – having regard to your age at the time and taking into account your behaviour in each of these two assaults – I impose a sentence of nine years imprisonment backdated to 17 May when you were remanded in custody.”

Several women who arrived in court just in time to hear the sentence being delivered burst into tears and comforted each other as McHugh was led to the cells.