HMA v ANGUS SINCLAIR

At the High Court in Livingston on 14 November 2014, Lord Matthews sentenced Angus Sinclair to life imprisonment with a punishment part of 37 years after the accused was found guilty of the 1977 murders of Christine Eadie and Helen Scott.

On sentencing, Lord Matthews made the following statement: 

“Angus Robertson Sinclair, there was no reason for Christine Eadie or Helen Anne Scott to think that 15 October 1977 was going to be particularly eventful. To all intents and purposes they would have a pleasant Saturday night out, the sort of occasion they would look forward to enjoying for many years to come with friends and family, including perhaps children and grandchildren

Helen, shy and retiring, and Christine, more outgoing, had not long left school and started work, no doubt harbouring ambitions of moving on to greater things. It was not made clear in the evidence how Christine saw her future but we know that Helen wanted to be a children’s nurse.

Whatever dreams they had, they turned into nightmares shortly after they left the World’s End Pub, the name of which has become synonymous with these notorious murders.

Little were they to know that they had the misfortune to be in the company of two men for whom the words evil and monster seem inadequate.

Unless one day your conscience, if you have one, motivates you to tell the truth, no one other than you will ever know precisely what part you and Gordon Hamilton played in these awful events. Perhaps it does not matter. What does matter is that the girls were subjected to an ordeal beyond comprehension and then left like carrion, exposed for all to see, with no dignity, even in death.

For them at least the nightmare is over and if they were not resting in peace before today I hope that they are now.

The nightmare for their families and friends, on the other hand, has gone on from those first awful moments when they heard the news no one should hear until even now, 37 years later and counting. It will never end. No one who saw the evidence of Helen’s father, sisters and boyfriend and Christine’s mother could fail to have been moved by it. They are an example to us all, waiting patiently for justice while the authorities have worked tirelessly to achieve it.

As for you, you have displayed not one ounce of remorse for these terrible deeds. The evidence in this case as well as your record, details of which have now been revealed,  shows that you are a dangerous predator, who is capable of sinking to the depths of depravity.

I do not intend to waste many words on you. You are well aware that the only sentence I can pass is one of life imprisonment.

Before I turn to the details of that I must deal with two matters which are frankly academic.

I certify that the offences of which you have been convicted attract the notification provisions of the Sexual Offences Act 2003. In other words you are on the so-called Sex Offenders Register but the chances of your ever having to notify the police of anything in the future are remote in the extreme.

Secondly, I direct the clerk to notify the Scottish Ministers of your conviction, in terms of the Protection of Vulnerable Groups (Scotland) Act 2007.

Merely sentencing you to life imprisonment is not the limit of my duties. The concept of parole does not sit easily with your crimes and indeed seems like an insult to the girls’ memories but nonetheless I have to designate a period which must pass before you can apply to be released on licence. The purpose of that period, known as the punishment part of the sentence, is to satisfy the requirements of retribution and deterrence. Whether you are ever released thereafter will not be a matter for me but for the Parole Board, although I intend to make matters easier for them.

On both charges 1 and 2 in cumulo I sentence you to life imprisonment to run from today and I fix the punishment part at 37 years.” 

Lord Matthews also thanked the jury for their diligence. 

He said: “Ladies and gentleman as you now know you have participated in legal history, the first trial to be conducted in this country after the abolition of the principle of double jeopardy.

It has been obvious to me and to all of us in court that you have been paying particular attention to the evidence and addresses in this case. That was exemplified by your request to see the various places of importance referred to in the evidence.

The families and friends of Christine Eadie and Helen Scott have had a long wait for justice. I don’t think any of you will easily forget the photographs which we saw, showing the terrible contrast between two young girls with everything to live for and their two corpses left to rot in East Lothian.

At this time of year and particularly on Monday we heard the famous words of Laurence Binyon in his poem For the Fallen. That was written for the young people who gave their lives in the Great War but may have some resonance for the families of Christine and Helen:

‘They shall grow not old as we that are left grow old.

Age shall not weary them nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember them.’

I say that because, while all of their loved ones would have wished to see them live on to a ripe old age, the memories they will have of them will always be of two happy home-loving innocent girls unbesmirched by the ravages of time. That is, indeed, how I think the whole of the country will remember them, thanks to the iconic photograph of the two of them which the media have published many times over the years.  It looks like it was taken in a photo booth, it has all the appearances of a selfie and it sums up in more than mere words what a dreadful loss was caused by Angus Sinclair and Gordon Hamilton.

I doubt if you have enjoyed this experience but I hope that it has given you a good insight into how our system of justice works. I am grateful to the Lord Advocate and to Mr Duguid and their respective juniors for their presentation of this case. I am also grateful for the tireless work done by the Clerk Mr Galloway, the Macer Mr Kerr and of course Mr Gebbie, who had the unenviable task of operating the technical equipment. A word of thanks is due to the media who have shown commendable restraint and responsibility in reporting the proceedings.

More importantly we are all grateful to you. Lawyers and judges have important roles to play but the ultimate decision in any trial is committed to jurors, without whom there would be no justice.

Your labours are now at an end and I can now discharge you.

Thank you.” 

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