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Sentencing Statements

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In cases where there is public interest or where the sentence may be complicated or controversial, the judge may decide to make the sentencing statement more widely available. You can read the judge’s full statement here once sentence has been passed.

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For more information about how judges decide sentences and what sentences are available to them, see the Scottish Sentencing Council website.

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HMA v James Morley

At the High Court in Edinburgh on 9 December 2015, Lady Scott sentenced James Morley to life imprisonment with a punishment part of 20 years after the accused was found guilty of the murder of Elaine Duncan.

On sentencing, Lady Scott made the following statement in court:

“James Morley, you have been convicted of the murder of your partner by the unanimous verdict of the jury.

The violence of your attack was utterly savage. You struck your victim with such force such as to cause significant bruising and a groove within her skull. Then, after she fell backwards, you knelt on top of her and cut her throat repeatedly – according to the pathologist up to 20 times. In so doing you cut through the major muscles, larynx, thyroid bone and jugular vein. No-one who heard and saw the evidence of her injuries will forget them.

Your victim was a vulnerable woman who had previously suffered violence and threats from you. You have eight relevant prior convictions for domestic aggravations against her since 2012. In 2013 you were made subject to a non-molestation order. You committed this murder within four days of being released on licence for breach of court orders relating to the victim. You have left her son and family devastated.

The jury rejected your claim of provocation in mitigation. I take into account that you called the emergency services shortly afterwards and you have accepted from the outset that you killed your victim. I take into account too that your prior violence to your victim was at summary level.

You show no insight and I am satisfied from the evidence of statements made by you to others, including those who prepared the background reports, that your conduct is entirely self-serving. I have considered the psychological and psychiatric reports obtained prior to trial by the defence. These reveal your longstanding chaotic lifestyle and your chronic alcohol and drug abuse which is associated with your being aggressive. From the preliminary expert opinions given, I have no doubt that you have a personality disorder and that you pose a significant risk of harm to others.

Taking account of all these factors I sentence you to life imprisonment with a punishment part of 20 years imprisonment, backdated to 22 April 2014.”