HMA v CHRISTOPHER O’SHEA

At the High Court in Edinburgh Lord Stewart sentenced Christopher O’Shea to life imprisonment with a punishment part of 18 years after he was found guilty of murder and attempted murder on 8 July 2013 near Paisley.

On sentencing Lord Stewart made the following statement in court:

18 March 2014

“Christopher O’Shea, on 12 February last in the High Court at Paisley you were convicted of the murder of Craig McSporran and of the aggravated assault and attempted murder of Derek McNeill by stabbing and slashing with a knife. The attack happened on 8 July 2013 at Bridge Street, Linwood, near Paisley. In returning these guilty verdicts the jury rejected your defence of alibi. Following the verdict the advocate depute moved for sentence, gave me some information about your personal circumstances, the history of the case and your previous convictions and handed up victim impact statements.

On that occasion I adjourned the case to obtain a Criminal Justice Social Work Report, which is now to hand. The report makes it clear that you continue to deny your guilt. That is something you are entitled to do and I do not regard it as an aggravating factor. On the other hand it means that the report offers nothing in the way of explanation or excuse. The report makes fairly bleak reading. You had, I infer, a deprived childhood. You were expelled, apparently, from two primary schools. Your secondary schooling was disrupted by exclusions. You finished your schooling in Kereslaw Residential School. You left school without qualifications and since leaving school you have not had a job. Until you were remanded you had a virtually daily cannabis habit. You have previous convictions for violent offending and one conviction for possession of a knife. You have previously been in custody.

A positive aspect is that since you entered into a relationship with Margaret Rooney in 2010 you have not accumulated any more convictions until the present offences. Margaret Rooney has four children from two previous relationships and two children from her relationship with you, C now aged two-and-a-half and S now aged nine months. You and Margaret Rooney had just moved into the house at Linwood, where the incident started. The verdict of the jury necessarily implies, I think, that when you and Margaret Rooney were in your new house with your new baby S and the other children someone threw a brick through one of the windows, unprovoked, and it was this that caused you to run outside to deal with the culprits. The pathology evidence supports the conclusion that the knife blow that ended Craig McSporran’s life was a particularly savage one.

I am bound by law to impose a sentence of life imprisonment for murder. In imposing the life sentence I am also required to make an order stating the minimum period which, in effect, you must serve before there can be any question of your release on licence. This minimum period is called the punishment part. I have to assess the punishment part to satisfy the requirements of retribution and deterrence. The questions of release and public protection will be ones for the Parole Board in due course. In assessing the punishment part I am bound to take into account the seriousness of the offence combined with the other offence of which you have been convicted on this indictment. I must also take into account any previous convictions.

Christopher O’Shea I sentence you to life imprisonment on charge 1, the murder charge, as I am bound to do; and having regard to all relevant circumstances including the brief plea in mitigation presented today by Mr Considine on your behalf I order that you serve a punishment part of 18 years in respect of your conviction on that charge. In respect of your conviction on charge 2, attempted murder, I sentence you to be imprisoned for 10 years. I order that the sentences imposed on charges 1 and 2 are to run concurrently and are to be backdated to 15 July 2013 the date when you were first taken into custody. I should make it clear that in this particular case, while I have taken account of the seriousness of the offences combined, it does not seem to me appropriate to increase the punishment part for the murder conviction by reason of the conviction, as such, for attempted murder which, on the evidence that the jury must have accepted, was part of the same attack.”