Corby man loses sentence appeal after fatally giving colleague morphine

Judges dismissed an appeal to reduce his prison spell

By Sam Wildman
Friday, 14th January 2022, 8:22 am
Scott Moffat.
Scott Moffat.

A Corby man whose colleague died after he supplied him with illegal morphine has lost an appeal to cut his prison sentence.

Scott Moffat, who is addicted to the class A drug, gave some to 19-year-old Ross Clark when the teenager said he had toothache and a headache.

The following day Ross was found dead by police and his family spoke of their devastation at a court hearing where 36-year-old Moffat was jailed for 30 months.

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Ross Clark

Yesterday (Thursday) at London's Royal Courts of Justice Moffat appealed against the punishment for supplying a class A drug, which his legal team argued was too harsh.

But the appeal was thrown out by judges who said Judge Rupert Mayo's sentence at Northampton Crown Court would stand.

Passing judgment, Mr Justice Lavender said: "No sentence imposed by any court can make up for their (Ross's family's) loss."

Ross and Moffat worked at the Rockingham Logistics Hub at Corby’s former speedway and late on February 14, 2020, just 15 days after moving out of his parents' home, Ross told friends he'd been given morphine by a colleague.

The following morning Ross didn’t respond to messages sent to him by friends who called police. Police found Ross on his bed, foaming at the mouth and an ambulance was called. His mum and dad also been trying to contact their son. Ross had tragically died.

His friends who gathered at his parents’ home to mourn Ross told what they believed had happened. Police went to Moffat’s home and asked him if he knew of Ross’s death.

Northampton Crown Court previously heard he became ‘visibly upset’ and admitted he’d given Ross liquid morphine. In a police interview he said he told him to only take "a little bit" and put the bottle back under a workstation. By the end of the shift he noticed half of the 300ml bottle had gone, after Ross returned for more.

Liquid morphine is illegal unless prescribed and is most often prescribed as an ‘end of life drug’ for the ‘most serious of conditions’. Moffat refused to tell police where he had got the morphine from, but accepted in court that his behaviour was reckless and said he was remorseful.

He was taking the drug to alleviate pain having lost an eye in a work accident in 2014. Yesterday judges were told he was addicted to it and suffered a heart attack in 2019 after taking it.

Mr Justice Lavender said the morphine taken by Ross, who also had cocaine in his system, proved to be a fatal dose. The court heard the blood morphine concentrate in Ross's post-mortem examination was in the range associated with a fatal outcome in other cases.

Moffat's appeal to have his prison sentence reduced revolved solely around Judge Mayo's decision over which category in the sentencing guidelines, which judges are bound by, the offence fell in.

Judge Mayo placed the case in category three's lesser harm, which had a starting point of three years in prison and a range of between two years and four-and-a-half years behind bars.

Representing Moffat, Lawrence Henderson argued that it should have instead been placed in a lesser category, category four, because Moffat didn't sell the drugs.

He said: "In this case there was no expectation of financial advantage at all."

He added the supply was "not an active supply but more of a passive supply" and that there was no justification for the categorisation.

He accepted that Ross's death was a serious aggravating feature that would put it towards the top of the range. If it was category four, even if the sentence was the maximum of three years, after credit for his guilty plea Moffat's sentence would have been reduced to 27 months.

The court heard a legal argument over whether drugs had to be sold to be placed in category three. Judges heard old sentencing guidelines concentrated on 'selling' but they were told new guidelines, published last year, also talked about supplying directly to users.

Prosecuting, Ben Gow said: "The fact he had experienced a heart attack meant he knew very clearly just how dangerous the drug was.

"For that reason alone it's capable of being placed in category three."

After deliberating for ten minutes Lord Justice Holroyde, Mr Justice Lavender and Her Honour Judge Wendy Joseph QC ruled category three was correct and dismissed the appeal.

Mr Justice Lavender said: "The resulting sentence of 30 months was neither wrong in judgement nor manifestly excessive."

Moffat, who appeared over videolink from HMP The Mount, will continue to serve half of his 30-month sentence before being released on licence.

After the hearing Ross's mum Ellen told the Northants Telegraph she was delighted that appeal judges had upheld the sentence.

At a previous hearing in Northampton she had spoken of how her son's death had left a 'massive void' in their family.

She said: “Ross was our life.

“His passing was so senseless. Ross wasn’t at a pub or a festival, he was at work. He should’ve been protected.

“I’ve had to watch my husband crumble before my eyes.

“I can’t live without Ross. I ask him to come and get me every night because I can’t face another day."