HMA v Graham Alexander Higgins

At the High Court in Glasgow on 23 June 2016, Lord Armstrong sentenced Graham Alexander Higgins to life imprisonment with a punishment part of 21 years after the accused was found guilty of murder, attempted murder, and assault.

On sentencing, Lord Armstrong made the following statement in court:

"Graham Alexander Higgins, you have been convicted by the jury of: charge 5 – an assault on Richard Gachagan; charge 9 – the attempted murder of Joseph Mclean; charge 10 – the murder of Albert McDonald. You earlier pleaded guilty to charge 13 – an assault with a glass on Paul McPhail.

You committed all of these attacks on the same day, 15 June 2015, and in each case your victim was an older man who was intoxicated. In relation to charges 5, 9 and 13, the attacks perpetrated by you appear to have been unprovoked.

As you are no doubt aware, the only penalty for murder is imprisonment for life, but I also have to set a period which must pass before you can apply to be released on parole. That period is known as the punishment part of the sentence.

Whether you are released thereafter will be a decision for others to make. Even after release, you will be on licence and subject to recall to prison for the rest of your life.

In fixing the duration of the punishment part of the sentence to be imposed in relation to your conviction in respect of charge 10, I have had regard to the circumstances of the crimes of which you stand convicted, as well as your previous criminal record, which includes previous convictions for road traffic offences and what appears to be related thefts, offences relating to the misuse of drugs and the possession of knives.

You have been previously convicted on some 30 prior occasions, and have been sentenced to custodial disposals more than 12 times. I have also taken into account what has been said on your behalf.

In relation to the other charges: that is to say charges 5, 9 and 13, I consider that were I to impose consecutive sentences, for which I may say there is some justification, the resulting total sentence would be excessive. 

In the whole circumstances, having regard to the totality of the criminal conduct involved, I sentence you, in respect of charges 5, 9 & 13 to a single cumulo sentence of imprisonment for 12 years. That sentence will be served concurrently with the period of imprisonment for life which I am about to impose.

Had it not been for your convictions in relation to these other charges the punishment part of your life sentence would have been 17 years. I make it clear, however, that in fixing the punishment part in relation to charge 10 which I will in fact impose, I have taken into account the sentence imposed in respect of these other charges in accordance with the guidance set out in the case of Chalmers v HMA in 2014. 

The sentence which I will now impose in respect of charge 10, the charge of murder, is imprisonment for life with a punishment part of 21 years. That sentence will be back-dated to 17 June 2015, when you were first detained in custody in relation to these matters."