HMA v JOHN PAUL BIRD

At the High Court in Glasgow on 30 January 2015, Judge John Beckett QC sentenced John Paul Bird to life imprisonment with a punishment part of 18 years after the accused was convicted of the murder of John Bulloch.

On sentencing, Judge Beckett made the following statement in court:

“John Paul Bird, you have been found guilty of murdering John Bulloch by stabbing him to the heart. The punishment is fixed by law. You will be sentenced to life imprisonment.

I am obliged to fix a period of time which you must serve in custody before being considered for parole. In fixing this period, known as the punishment part, I must reflect the need to punish you for the crime of murder and to deter you and others from committing murder. In fixing the punishment part of your sentence the law requires me to ignore the risk that you may pose to the public in the future.

This does not mean that you will serve just this period. It will be for the Parole Board to determine when it is safe for you to be released from prison. The question of parole cannot arise before the punishment period has passed.

I am also obliged to take account of the seriousness of the crime of murder of which you have been convicted, and your record of previous convictions.

You have four convictions for having weapons in public places one of which related to a knife and you have six convictions for assault, some of which involved weapons. In 2003 on sheriff court indictment you were sentenced to detention for 18 months for assault to severe injury and permanent disfigurement and in the same forum in 2011 you were sentenced to imprisonment for 30 months for assault and robbery and assault.

In this case, the incident arose when you threatened to gouge out the eyes of women, complete strangers to you, who would not give you a smoke in response to your aggressive request.

The public spirited Mr Bulloch intervened and asked you to leave the women alone and encouraged you to move away from them. This was captured on CCTV and it is crystal clear that he offered you no violence or threat. Once again you had with you in a public place a knife, this time with a blade of about five inches.

As a result of your inexcusable and gratuitous violence, with no warning, Mr Bulloch lost his life and his family lost forever the man of whom they have every reason to be proud.

What could be said in mitigation has been said on your behalf. The trial was shortened by your accepting responsibility for the killing. I recognise that you have no previous convictions in this court. It is plain that you have a history of depression.  It is to your credit that you were trying to get help from psychiatric services and taking steps to withdraw from heroin, prompted by the admirable efforts made by your mother I suspect. Whilst she tried to assist you, you carried on drinking and abusing drugs behind her back with the appalling consequences this court has seen.

Your mental state may have been disturbed to some extent at the time of the killing and I take that into account, but any disturbance was not substantial in relation to what you did and it is largely accounted for by your abuse of alcohol and illicit drugs in addition to your prescription valium. 

Having regard to the whole circumstances, the punishment part will be one of 18 years. This period of 18 years is backdated to 6 May 2014 when you were remanded in custody. This does not mean that this is a sentence of 18 years. You are sentenced to life imprisonment and you will serve at least 18 years before you can be considered for release on parole. It will be for the Parole Board to determine when you will ultimately be released and they will have regard to the safety of the public in reaching that decision.”

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