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.

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

  1. The long and short of it is this, even in this country, if you use a knife in self defense you will go to jail. You may not go to prison but you WILL go to jail. In 2018 only 3 percent of use of a knife in self defense were found to be justified according to FBI statistics. Doesn’t matter that lethal force was justified, a knife is the wrong weapon to use.

  2. In police academy, we were taught that anyone worth shooting was worth shooting more than once.

    Once the threshold of danger of grievous harm to one’s self or others has been crossed by an assailant, it is insufficient and improper to merely “wing” that assailant. The assailant must be rendered unable to continue his attack and endanger others. If not, you, the officer, have failed in your duty to the public.

    I hope the Glaswegian jurors who inflicted that injustice on Patrick Phinn someday are placed in his shoes.

    1. loupgarous – remember that running gun battle in CA where the police expended several hundred rounds and never hit the guys?

      1. The one where the crew held up a bank branch? Those guys were wearing body armor over their torsos and both thighs, if I recall correctly. It took hundreds of rounds to bring those guys down because the head shots that would have done the job are hard to do while ducking from incoming fire. The crew – including two computer programmers, IIRC – were also well armed with semi-auto rifles and pistols.

        Paul, I’m pretty sure the cops scored several hits before bringing the crew down – it was a matter of when one of your shots broke the trauma panel under the bad guys’ Kevlar shirts or found a weak area in their armor.

        1. loupgarous – the first thing that goes under heavy stress is your fine motor skills. You are lucky if you can hit the barn door. 😉

          1. One reason “machine pistols”/”submachine guns” were given to tank troops and other non-combat specialist up to the ’60s – “spray and pray” was always an option

            1. loupgarous – the infamous Trench Sweeper, the 1897 Winchester shotgun was used from WWI thru Korea.

  3. A cop pulls an elderly woman over. Walks up to her car window and ask to see her license and registration. He notices that there is hand gun on the seat next to her. The officer asks, is that your hand gun mam? She answers, why yes. So is the other handgun and the shotgun in the back seat. The officer says, just what are you afraid? She replies, not a f—ing thing. This guy in Scotland shouldn’t be afraid of anything either.

  4. “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.”

    This is a violation of human rights. The right to defend yourself against an armed assailant is one of the most basic human rights. There are some politicians, and legislators, that would prefer victims just roll over and die. They seem quite bent on protecting criminals from the repercussions of their crimes.

    Why are 17 wounds disturbing? He was in a knife fight with another man wielding a knife. It was a fight to the death. His adrenaline would be roaring through his veins. He probably kept stabbing him until he lay still. This isn’t like the movies where there is one mortal wound and then the fighter dances back out of reach. A knife fight is brutal, and it can turn on a dime. You never give an enemy a chance to gain the upper hand, or it will be you lying still and your spouse will be next.

    Here in America, we have the right to defend ourselves…if we can keep it.

    1. All the armchair quarterbacks on the jury weren’t in the room. If a knife-wielding maniac was running at them, they would be howling at the defendant to stab him again.

      I don’t think any American audience, raised on slasher horror films, would have objected to the number of knife wounds it took to bring him down.

      1. Says the “armchair quarterback” (Karen) who wasn’t on the jury OR ‘in the room.”

        As Seth correctly noted down-thread:

        “The only confusing part of this story is an appearance the Burglar made 30 minutes earlier.

        “It seems the Burglar showed up, was persuaded to leave, then came back a half hour later. No article mentions if the couple attempted to call police after the first encounter. What’s more, it isn’t clear how the Burglar was gaining access to the flat.”

        There is almost certainly more to this story.

      1. Yes, I know that it was in Scotland. That is why I said, “I don’t think any American audience…would have objected.” As in, this would have had a different outcome if it was tried in America. I also said that here in America, we have the right to self defense. That is not the case in Europe.

        1. Karen, typical that the person who instructed you to read better had failed to read well at all. It was perfectly clear that you were making a distinction between Scotland and Europe on the one hand and America on the other.

          Perhaps his vision was blurred by adolescent hatred.

  5. If things had gone the other way, the obvious, culpable, criminal perpetrator in this scenario would have been given a brief term in a government hotel with all the comforts of home, three squares a day, medical, dental, hygiene, heating and air conditioning, house keeping and not one vestige, real or imagined, of “cruel and unusual punishment.”

    The quality of killing, without concern for the quantity of killing, is outweighed by the original act, the unknown, potential threat presented by the perpetrator and by the intractable and immutable passions of the moment.

    Juries are imperfect, biased and often just plain wrong. The jury in the Orenthal James Simpson trial allowed a double-murderer to go free. A Florida jury found Casey Anthony not guilty after she murdered her daughter Caylee.

  6. Coverage From Scottish Paper

    This is the most extensive coverage I could find. It closely corresponds with the BBC story linked to Turley’s column but with a little extra detail.

    It appears that the Burglar was a local hoodlum known to the community. Community residents testified that the Burglar had a reputation for violence. The only confusing part of this story is an appearance the Burglar made 30 minutes earlier.

    It seems the Burglar showed up, was persuaded to leave, then came back a half hour later. No article mentions if the couple attempted to call police after the first encounter. What’s more, it isn’t clear how the Burglar was gaining access to the flat. None of 3 stories I read is specific on this point.

    https://www.thescottishsun.co.uk/news/scottish-news/5322270/man-guilty-killing-knife-thug-easterhouse-glasgow/

    1. what seth is suggested, and this is called reading between the lines, and journalists get a good idea of how to do it….. is that maybe they knew the burglar…. which might explain to some degree, the outcome

      it might be an interesting exercise to pour over the transcript. if somebody wants me to do so, please first send me an advance fee payment and I’ll get busy dissecting it

      1. Yeah, Kurtz, I think they knew the burglar and might possibly have opened the door when he came calling.

  7. It’s very simple – the homeowner stabbed the burglar 17 times because he was enraged and suddenly realized he had the means to defend himself. The jury is nuts (so is Turley in his analysis. If it happened to him, he’d do the same thing.)

    1. here is an interesting interview on the topic of an effective use of knife in self defense and the possible interpretations of police and jury after the fact

      https://armedcitizensnetwork.org/defending-self-defense-knife-use

      one lesson from a thorough study of the subject, is that in America where guns are mostly legal, it is better to use a gun in self defense than a knife. your ability to skate after the fact is just better.

      this may seem paradoxical but the result in Scotland pretty well confirms that a jury is often not very realistic about what is necessary for the use of a knife in self defense.

      the knife however has many shortcomings, and only 2 advantages, for self defense,. a. they are quiet. b. they are almost always ready at hand in the home but a handgun requires proper safe storage and so forth, so sometimes they’re hard to access when the sht jumps off

      1. …and (c), a knife never runs out of ammunition (as the late assailant and home invader learned to his hurt)

          1. One reason they’re increasingly popular among Sudden Jihad Sufferers, along with the rented 3.5 ton moving van

    2. And what were these 17 “stab” wounds? Did they also include minor cuts and scraped caused by the struggle? Without details, this is meaningless and Turley is being disingenuous and using this for his own ends (typical lawyer). The jury and Turley, both, are full of feces.

      1. Careful reading reveals: There was only ONE knife. The defendant took away the knife. At that point the criminal was unarmed.

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