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Wick man warned he could face an extra year in prison after sheriff accused him of 'smirking'

By Court Reporter

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A young Wick man jailed for seven months for his ‘outrageous’ behaviour at a Thurso supermarket almost had an extra year added to his sentence.

Sheriff Andrew Berry said that Liam Long appeared to have smirked during a video link from prison and told him: “You are really pushing your luck,” and added: “Since you are in contempt of court I could send you to prison for a further year right now. Do you want me to do that?”

Long, who denied the smirk after he removed his mask, replied: “No.”

The 25-year-old previously admitted a charge of threatening or abusive behaviour at the Tesco store in Millbank Road, Thurso, on January 26.

The court at Wick heard, previously, that Long was under the influence of alcohol when he entered the store and requested cigarettes. He became annoyed when asked for proof of his identity and age by store assistant Louisa Body and raised his fist and shouted.

Long was told he was banned from the store and he left it after a time.

Once outside, he stared in at one of the assistants. The accused re-entered the store and continued his aggressive conduct. He told duty manager Linsey Matthews that he had been in prison and he was someone she should be frightened of.

The police were informed and Long was arrested.

The Tesco store in Millbank Road, Thurso.
The Tesco store in Millbank Road, Thurso.

When he first appeared in court, Sheriff Berry said he would remand him for a background report – but Long insisted that he be sentenced immediately and subjected the sheriff to a tirade of abuse as he was led away to the cells. He subsequently apologised for his conduct.

On Tuesday, solicitor Fiona MacDonald appealed for a non-custodial sentence and said that Long had engaged with prison authorities while on remand, regarding his abuse of substances and other issues including anger management. She added that he had no recollection of the store incident.

Sheriff Berry observed that the incident had occurred only a few days after Long had been released from prison for an earlier term imposed for an unrelated offence.

Sentencing Long, the sheriff said: “You became instantly abusive to the staff in the most disgraceful manner because you were not getting your own way. You behaved shamefully and you were offensive and upsetting to staff.

"You seemed to think that having just been released from prison was some sort of badge of honour. You stared in at a staff member which must have been a most unpleasant experience for her.”

Sheriff Berry referred to the first anniversary of the Covid-19 lockdown and paid tribute to the staff at the Tesco branch and other stores who had reacted ‘splendidly’ to helping others throughout the pandemic and “were entitled to be treated with respect”.

He told Long: “You clearly have no respect for those individuals whatsoever.”

The sheriff remarked that the accused had learned “precisely nothing” from his previous jail term and said that the custodial sentence he was about to impose would be a warning that such behaviour “will not be tolerated”.

Sheriff Andrew Berry gave a contempt warning to Liam Long.
Sheriff Andrew Berry gave a contempt warning to Liam Long.

A further 89 days, representing the balance of an unfinished jail sentence imposed for a previous offence after Long was released early on licence, will run consecutively with the seven-month term, bringing the total jail term imposed to 10 months.

Long will be given an opportunity to finish the assessment for the drug treatment testing order he started while on remand.

The sheriff deferred sentence on a breach of an unpaid work order imposed on an unrelated offence until September 22.

Long was banned from entering the Thurso Tesco branch for two years and is also subject to a non-harassment order banning him from approaching or contacting Louisa Body and Linsey Matthews for the same period.

“Given the state you were in at the time, you probably won’t recognise them in any case,” commented Sheriff Berry.

At that point he asked Long: “Was that a smirk I saw when you removed your mask?”

Long replied that he was simply scratching his nose but the sheriff said that the accused didn’t need to remove his mask to do that. It was then that the sheriff issued the contempt warning.

Long, who lived in Thurso at the time of the Tesco incident, was said to be hoping to relocate to Inverness after his release from his latest prison sentence.

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