Scottish Man Sentenced To Five Years After Killing Armed Burglar In His Home

We have previously discussed the use of lethal force to protect one’s home or business both in terms of the common law and “castle doctrine” laws. It is rare for jurors to convict homeowners who wound or kill armed robbers or burglar. However, in Glasgow, Patrick Phinn, 49, has been sentenced to five years for stabbing to death Ronald Pattison, who broke into his home and threatened Phinn and his partner.

A man who killed an armed robber after he turned up at his house demanding money has been jailed for five years. Pattison was wielding a knife when he entered the home and threatened the couple. A fight ensured and Phinn grabbed a knife and proceeded to stab Pattison 17 times.

The number of knife wounds is clearly notable and disturbing. Yet, if the jury accepted that this was self-defense, he could have killed Pattison with a single wound. The case is reminiscent of the recent Bronx case of a criminal charge in killing a felon but that case involved chasing the individual.

I have been a long critic of Castle Doctrine laws. The title refers to the old adage that “a man’s home is his castle,” which is not a common law doctrine of criminal law or torts but rather an aspirational statement. The Castle Doctrine is a generally a reference to the modern trend of legislatively empowering homeowners to use lethal force solely on the basis of a home invasion.

Under the common law, there was not “fear of prosecution or civil action for acting in defense of themselves and others” so long as you acted in reasonable self-defense or even “reasonable mistaken self-defense.” In the case of Courvoisier v. Raymond, 23 Colo. 113 (1896), a man chased a group out of his home only to fire when a man approached him outside his home from the stone-throwing mob. It turned out to be a deputy sheriff but the court found that Courvoisier could rely on reasonable mistaken self-defense. The common law has long offered ample protections even for reasonable mistakes. 

Notably, in this case, prosecutors pushed for an actual murder conviction. However, the jury found him guilty of the reduced charge of culpable homicide. The number of knife wounds was clearly determinative. Lord Matthews told Phinn that: “[i]t is difficult to think of circumstances where provocation is more appropriate than this. This was extreme in the circumstances. However, the jury was satisfied that you went beyond what was necessary.”

Again, that statement highlight the curious aspect of the verdict. Presumably, they are not suggesting that he should have merely wounded seriously but not fatally. If that is the case, why is 17 blows excessive rather than 1 fatal blow. Indeed, how do we know if the first or third or tenth wound was fatal. It is difficult to state conclusively the precise order of multiple stab wounds. Unless the jury believes that Phinn should have used non-lethal force to repel a lethal threat, this is a difficult verdict to fully understand in terms of the standard.

98 thoughts on “Scottish Man Sentenced To Five Years After Killing Armed Burglar In His Home”

  1. Mespo and some others gave good feedback and I”ll chip in too.

    Our populations are conditioned to thinking about self defense in terms of a gunshot. And gunshot to brain or pelvis can stop an attack in its tracks. literally. Center mass shots may not do it, hence the “mozambique drill”

    But to use a knife in self defense, it is even more difficult. You have to stab, stab, stab, slash, cut, sever, and keep on doing it until the aggressor stops. Most cuts will only be superficially harmful, deep slash of throat might hit the carotid artery and make a fast disabling wound; same a deep stab to the heart.

    but even fatal wounds to sever arteries may take some time to take effect; maybe a puncture would to the lung will also take some time to stop the attack

    so the effective use of a knife in self defense such as here, will take multiple disabling wounds to be effective.

    police, prosecutors, and juries should all either know this or receive sufficient expert testimony to assess it properly

    I think it’s a disservice to the accused that Turley calls it “disturbing” and Turley undermines his own point by saying so.

    It doesnt disturb me; it looks to me like an effective use of the knife in self defense, just that, and nothing more.

    If you are interesting in the subject, there is a ton of data coming all the time from jails about the use of knives in self defense and murder and batteries. But i can summarize it in 2 points:

    a. the stabbing attack is the hardest to defend against, and the most effective for the aggressor. not the slash. of course we already knew this which is why fencing is what it is.

    b. multiple wounds are necessary to disable.

    1. I’ll add another thing. Congratulations to Mr Phinn for his successful defense of home and family.

      He will be just fine in jail. He will enter with a fine reputation and immediate esteem from other inmates. He could perhaps write a book about his ordeal and make some decent money on the exercise. Well done Mr Phinn!

    2. “The stabbing attack***is the most effective….”

      Yes. The Roman army knew that well, hence the standard issue short sword for stabbing rather than slashing. Vegetius discusses it.

      1. Young:

        “Yes. The Roman army knew that well, hence the standard issue short sword for stabbing rather than slashing. Vegetius discusses it.”
        ************************
        Yes, in the Testudo formation,the legions were very glad for the Gladius but it was the soft-shanked but hard-headed Pilum that drew you in for the kill stab from between the Scutums.

        1. The testudo was interlocking overhead shields to protect from arrows and dropping objects. The pilum was a heavy spear thrown before the two armies actually made physical contact. The short sword was used after the first clash of shields and did much of the killing.

          1. Actually the Testudo was a defensive formation by the first row or two of legionnaires who held shields forward and above while puncturing opposing shields with their pilums in the Republic and Imperial armies. Rows behind would stab through the shield works with their Gladii as the pilums drew them in toward the short swords. Pilum’s could be thrown but the missile of choice was the Plumbata in the late empire which spun when throw and was more accurate.

  2. Not being English/scottish, I can only address the insanity of this author and the whole premise I can’t kill in self-defense. Get over yourself, do it NOW! I WILL KILL, to protect me and my own. I don’t GAF about courts, judges, constabularians, etc.

  3. Scotland is a civil law jurisdiction and not likely to honor an English common law rule from Justice Coke. But, then, the common law in England itself has suffered of late.

    Counting the number of wounds in an assailant to measure the extent of justified and unjustified force is not reasonable. Many times people with mortal wounds have continued to kill or wound others before expiring. In a famous instance many years ago two robbers dying from gunshot wounds wiped out an FBI team before dying.

    They aren’t dead until they are dead and if your family’s life is in the balance you make sure.

    1. Just one bullet, or knife, entering the brain removes the threat much quicker than multiple body shots or stabs. Just become expert with your weapon BEFORE you need these skills.

      1. RLA Bruce – as Aileen Woronov said about killing her first victim, “I ain’t a great aimer!”

  4. “The number of knife wounds is clearly notable and disturbing. Yet, if the jury accepted that this was self-defense, he could have killed Pattison with a single wound. The case is reminiscent of the recent Bronx case of a criminal charge in killing a felon but that case involved chasing the individual.”
    *********************
    Anyone who has ever been in a serious fight with one, will tell you that you will almost never take down a hopped-up adult male with one of anything including a bullet (hand grenades excepted) . In a situation involving self-defense you strike, hit or fire until the threat is neutralized and in most cases that means dead or mortally wounded. You break into my house at night and threaten anyone there, I will empty as many magazines, cylinders, quivers or knife blocks until I am assured to a moral certainty you will never do that again. I suspect it will take me ten minutes or so to calm down so the perp need not expect an instantaneous medical response either.

    1. One shot through the brain is enough to neutralize the threat. The bigger issue is whether to bring the criminal’s crime to the attention of the authorities. You’ve already given him the maximum punishment he can get, so all the legal system can do is look for something YOU did that is illegal–and depending on your local DA, he may look really hard for something to put YOU away.

      As ranchers say about killing protected wolves that are eating their livestock: Shoot. Shovel. Shut Up. The dead perp has no connections to you, so cops aren’t likely to knock on your door asking about his disappearance. If you’re in a crime-prone neighborhood, they may eventually wonder why there’s less crime around your home, but except for that, no worries. 😉

      1. RLA Bruce:

        “One shot through the brain is enough to neutralize the threat.”

        ***************************
        Wow that’s good shooting! And not where you’re taught to fire by self-defense guys but if you can do it, more power to you!

        1. Yes, Mespo, the smart shot is center mass. Even that is hard when you are in a dark room, terrified, and a killer is moving on you.

          1. mozambique drill, 2 to the center, one to head; modified, 2 to center and one to pelvis. good for armored attacker.

          2. Moving targets are different. It’s been some years since I checked, but FBI stats as far as accuracy go, at a distance of 20 or so feet, about 3/4’s of shots miss, even up close it’s a 50/50. Movement takes it into new territory. Adrenaline response. Addition of different planes of movement. Deception. All of it.

          3. Young:

            The best advice I ever got for a home invasion scenario (with time, of course, otherwise there is no right way except be the one to shoot first) is to kneel behind the bed with solid wall to your back. Rest arms over the top with the revolver (not a big fan of jambs or wondering if the safety is off/on) pointed at the point of ingress and yell like Hell that lead flies when a figure silhouettes the door. Oh and a call to 911 if there’s time or someone able to do so. “Let the invader come to you on ground familiar to you and behind cover,” is how he put it.

            1. To that I would add that my Taurus Judge pistol is loaded with .410 shotgun rounds.

              1. im not a fan of that heavy and unwieldy piece. seems to me that the small spread of pellets at close distance is not going to make a difference for a poorly aimed shot. but chacun a son gout

              2. mofo knows:

                I like that approach but I use the mankiller ammo in my S/W642 and Glock Model 19 (Gen 4). I have a tactical shotgun at the River.

  5. If it’s worth doing, and you want to argue to what degree, after the fact, when you didn’t experience the ‘heat of the moment’ (even in same neighborhood) then you and yours should be next.

  6. “Solely on the basis of Home Invasion” That is all that is needed to Execute the invader.

  7. Thank you for this posting. As a defensive instructor, I have always taught my students that lethal force is justified when in fear of death or great bodily harm and that force must cease the moment the threat of death or great bodily harm is stopped. Since the evidence in this case does not show when the threat was stopped the jury must have been convinced that the amount of force exceeded the threshold of stopping. I believe your analysis assumes that using lethal force allows one to take a life. It does not it only allows one to uses such force to stop the threat. Once that threat has been neutralized the force must cease. For example, You attack me with knife and I take my gun out and you throw the knife down. I have stopped the threat without firing a shot., yet even after seeing my gun you continue the attack. I shoot you four times before you fall to the ground, On the fourth shot you fall. I fire once more into your head. The fifth shot would be not justified, yet if you again reached for the knife or tried to stand the fifth shot might be justified.

    1. It’s Britain. People have been sent up for multi-year sentences for defending their rural homesteads with a single gunshot.

      1. You could expect a Law Professor to know that laws in Scotland are different to those in England and CERTAINLY in USA But this is a jabbering idiot who is more worried about his celebrity than the law and must write with no regard to facts

    2. “As a defensive instructor”

      You describe yourself as a trained individual in this type of action. However, things are a lot different to those that have never been involved in such violence. We have all seen movies of violent people continuing their deadly actions until they are dead, dead, dead and movement can occur after they are dead. We hear about police officers being asked how many shots they took at the criminal shooting at them and how many times they vastly underestimate the number of shots they made. IMO one has to lean on the side of innocence.

      I somewhat go by the idea that an inexperienced person doesn’t draw the gun until they are ready to kill.

      1. I read about a cop who fired several shots at a perp who robbed a convenience store. The coroner said the first shot “killed him instantly,” yet he continued shooting at the cop and ran a hundred yards AFTER the fatal shot, before his body shut down. That happens frequently: a person with a fatal wound is still able to kill. This could have happened in this case, especially with a knife wound. Even if the perp has a fatal wound, the homeowner may have continued stabbing him until he quits trying to kill him, which could easily last for 16 more stabbings.

  8. Know the stand your ground laws in your state. If you live in a dem utopia then mommygov will save you.

    1. If someone breaks into your house armed, and he ends up dying because you protected your home, property, and life, and the state law says you must flee the scene and call police from your neighbor’s house, that might lead to people not reporting the death and just disposing of the perpetrator’s body. If we’re not allowed to protect our lives and property, who will ? If the laws only protect criminals, then the system is upside down.

      1. “…that might lead to people not reporting the death and just disposing of the perpetrator’s body.”

        Exactly what I’d do.

        Shoot
        Shovel
        Shut up.

        1. dumb idea at least in the US. You have a right to self defense, and you have a right to remain silent.

          but you don’t have a right to bury a body surreptitiously, that’s a crime in itself, and so is tampering with evidence, that’s obstruction. and easily observed by neighbors or squealed on you by others.

          when the rod is hot and the perp is not, you call 911 like i said above., and then say as little as possible. i want to talk to my lawyer.

      2. this speculation about “disposing of bodies” is wrong.

        Here is what you do.

        first off, don’t die. actually succeed in self defense. next:

        a) verify the attacker is neutralized. do not touch them. definitely don’t put down one of your steak knives or “bury the body” etc. stupid ideas.

        b) gather family to one secure place to defend against possible second attack from others and call 911.

        c) from secure place, call 911 and request police. “an intruder has been stopped at my home, I am afraid for my life. Send police and ambulance.” Do not chatter.

        d) stay in place and let police enter and clear the dwelling and find their way to you in the secure location. this will help prevent a secondary risk of the police messing up and shooting you.

        e) say you heard and saw an intruder and you were in fear of your life and so you acted. And you have nothing more to say. I have nothing else to say, and I want to talk to my lawyer. Don’t worry; in itself, this will not make them arrest you. They understand what you are saying and saying a lot more probably won’t help– but it can hurt you. If they badger you tell them you are shook up and afraid and you just want to be quiet and have a lawyer before you say anything else. Maybe you have chest pains and are afraid you’re having a heart attack. Ask for the paramedics to check you and everybody out. This ought to cut off the BS at least temporarily and I can’t see how it will look bad to a jury even if you are ok. And you might not be ok; sometimes people are injured and they dont even know it due to adrenaline.

        This is textbook advice for America, I can’t speak to Scotland, but it’s based on thousands of armed self defense incidents and a certain number of bogus prosecutions.

        There is nothing to get too exercised about in the US, it seems to me most genuine incidents of self defense are not prosecuted. I know about the scare stories and there are some bad exceptions but in general, if you are in the right and don’t talk too much after the fact, you will be ok

  9. In Camus’s “The Stranger,” Meursault, the protagonist, appears to be assaulted by an Arab on the beach. Meursault’s gun fires–it not clear if he fired it volitionally–but then Meursault fires four more shots, and each successive one “was another loud fateful rap on the door of my undoing.” (Meursault is later condemned to death but he realizes that it is not for the killing of the Arab but rather because he didn’t cry at his mother’s funeral, a fact brought out at his trial that the court found appalling.) The very prosecution, not to mention the conviction and sentencing, of this Scottish case is a travesty

  10. 17 stab wounds really isn’t that many in the circumstance especially if someone’s afraid, angry, full of adrenaline, and protecting a loved one. He could have inflicted all of those in less than ten seconds. Maybe the antique knife he grabbed was really big. Maybe the assailant was already down, and Phinn continued to attack him. Regardless, it was one wound that killed the attacker, not 17.

    But to the main point, I think he was well within his rights all things considered especially if the assailant really stated that he was going to murder them both.

    1. it’s well known from hundreds of stabbing incidents in american jails per year if not more, that one stab wound generally will not kill somebody and you need to poke about 20 some holes in them to have a good chance of killing. and that’s what often happens. if it doesnt then people usually make it to the infirmary in time.

      here is one peer reviewed study from 1989, Folsom:

      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2911111

      Abstract
      The morbidity and mortality of stab wounds is unknown since much of the data is unobtainable. Folsom Prison, a closed system with respect to population at risk and medical care, represents a unique situation where all stab wounds and subsequent care are accounted for. A retrospective review of stabbing incidents at Folsom Prison identified 751 wounds in 270 prisoners. Overall mortality was 3%. Thirty-five per cent of the victims were hospitalized. The overall chance of serious injury, defined as an assault victim requiring more than cleansing and suturing of his wounds, was 25%. The most common procedures were tube thoracostomy (performed 36 times) and celiotomy (performed 31 times). We believe that this is the first study of its kind involving a closed population to accurately assess the overall morbidity and mortality of stab wounds. The 3% mortality and the 25% requiring a procedure beyond suturing reflects the low injury potential long clinically suspected in stab wounds.

      1. Thank you Mr. Kurtz – very interesting information

        In this incident, it was one stab in particular that severed a major artery in the assailant’s neck.

  11. In Camus’s “The Stranger,” Meursault, the protagonist, appears to be assaulted by an Arab on the beach. Meursault’s gun fires–it not clear if he fired it volitionally–but then Meursault fires four more shots, and each successive one “was another loud fateful rap on the door of my undoing.” (Meursault is later condemned to death but he realizes that it is not for the killing of the Arab but rather because he didn’t cry at his mother’s funeral, a fact brought out at his trial that the court found appalling.) The very prosecution, not to mention the conviction and sentencing, of this Scottish case is a travesty.

  12. The left doesn’t believe in the right of self defense. They would rather you hand over your wife and children rather than making a fuss.

    1. 1.The right of self-defense incorporates an autonomous adult undertaking an act of self-help.

      2. The left in this country (and, I’m wagering, all over the Anglosphere) maintains an understanding of society derived from the social relations of high school (elementary school, really). They conceive of certain occupational groups (lawyers, the social work and mental health trade, school administrators, teachers) as society’s faculty and administration. The rest of us are pupils. Our elective institutions are no more consequential than student councils. Any autonomy we have is derived from the preferences of our hall-monitor guilds.

      3. Ergo, he does not have permission to defend his property, or his life.

  13. Tell me what common person knows when and how many stab wounds will stop a threat. How do we know if it took 17 times for the threat to be stopped. And given the adrenaline and natural protective nature of human beings of their loved ones, the number of times becomes irrelevant. What is relevant is when you threaten the life of someone and their loved one’s by entering their home with a weapon, you should expect to be threatened in return. You are culpable bc you are a threat

  14. Prince Charles tested positive for COVID-19 & is at his Scottish retreat in quarantine. The last person Prince Charles came in contact with, was the Queen. If the Queen gets the virus & dies, could Prince Charles be charged with murder?

    1. The Prince last saw the Queen 15 days ago. If she’s not ill now, no infection can be attributed to that meeting.

  15. The Castle Doctrine is a generally a reference to the modern trend of legislatively empowering homeowners to use lethal force solely on the basis of a home invasion.

    If you don’t wish to be shot to death by a homeowner, refrain from staging home invasions. Works for most of us.

  16. Interesting decision indeed. Somewhat of a Rorschach test. Harder to determine than a gun shot situation…, if he’d shot someone 17 times we’re usually talking the definition of overkill (although a friend represented a crack dealer in KC who was shot more than 17 times by the police and survived).

    But stabbing someone 17 times can happen really quickly, and it’s how people stab each other in jail. Volume and speed of attack are of the essence in such situations. In other words, much more likely to venture beyond cognition than if shooting someone 17 times…so, yes, an interesting verdict.

    Speaking of castle doctrine law, Jon…, it would be great to get your comments on the President. He’s a clear and present danger to the national security of the United States with his response to Covid 19. He is not defending the nation to the optimum, clearly. He is not defending the castle. Never before as a nation has it been more necessary for outside intervention to a presidency. The founders, like with with the degree that the corporate state could take over government, and with things like high velocity ammunition, could not accurately gauge the threat of a pandemic in a wildly developed society…

    What say you on this state of affairs??? I’d classify it as being a wildly pressing matter.

    1. He’s a clear and present danger to the national security of the United States with his response to Covid 19.

      In your imagination only.

      1. Me and the entire world health care system. And first response system. And the military. And local government.

        Other than that, you’re correct.

        1. Me and the entire world health care system.

          Again, compounding one bit of imagination with another does not make it true.

            1. Young, I had to check on the blog to see whose poor grammer it was. On the email it could seem to be DSS”s though it turns out to be an error by alias “paulie”

            2. Lol. Just Lol. I think this three word sentence needs to be a tee shirt.

        2. Obama didn’t react to the last “flu” pandemic until 12k Americans died; we also watched MSM determine that Covid-19 was “just the flu” in their early reporting.
          TDS is more dangerous than Covid-19.

    2. What planet are you living on??? I guess uncle joe would be doing better. people like you are the problem. If you are a man or woman you are supposed to take care of yourself in this great country. Fed govt is here to assist. And is what they are doing

    3. He’s a clear and present danger to the enemies of the United States, and those who hate it.
      Guess you just showed which you are. Glad it upsets you.
      I derive great pleasure in your angst.

      1. DSS – as a juror, what would be the limit of stab wounds you would find reasonable for self-defense?

        1. as a juror I would put myself in the shoes of the defendant which is what American law requires.

          I would say 17 is an effective use of a knife in self defense. totally reasonable. 5 minutes to acquittal.

          so far I have been called about 5 times for jury duty and never seated. when you’re a lawyer they dont want you.

  17. 1. Britain is not, culturally, a free country. In a free society, a man is at liberty to defend his life and property. Britain is in the grip of social work ideology, which sees society as composed of patrons and clients, and which favors ‘the marginalized’ over ordinary people. Ten years of Conservative government in Britain have failed to change this, because the British Conservative Party is largely useless.

    2. Note, this is a no-brainer for a pardon. Elizabeth has been absurdly deferential to politicians for more than sixty years, and will do nothing.

    1. Scotland is run by skeezy Peronists who wish to be free of Westminster in order to be yoked to Brussels. If the rest of Britain had much sense, they wouldn’t allow Scotland to secede. They’d kick them the h!ll out.

      1. I think a lot of the English are coming to the same conclusion. The Scots are a pain in the rear.

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