HMA v James Murray

At the High Court in Edinburgh Lady Wolffe imposed an extended sentence of five years on James Murray after he was found guilty of assault and sending sexualised text messages.

On sentencing Lady Wolffe made the following statement in court:

“James Murray, you have been found guilty after trial of 3 assaults to injury, one breach of a bail condition, and two charges of sending sexualised text communications to two older  children, contrary to section 34(1) of the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009.  

The three assaults were carried out on others and were unprovoked. One of these was an assault on a 13 year old  girl some 6 or 7 years younger than you were. In relation to the sexual communications made by way of text to two girls, these are themselves serious charges. The two complainers who received these communications were young teenagers who were also impressionable or vulnerable.  Very shortly after meeting each of them, you secured their mobile numbers. The text communications you sent began in an innocuous fashion but then escalated to texts that were wholly inappropriate in their character. In respect of both complainers these texts included requests that they engage in sexual  intercourse and other sexual activities with you. You were some six or seven  years older than they were. This is suggestive of a classic form of grooming of vulnerable young girls. The legislation that you have breached was enacted just for such circumstances: to protect children from predatory contact and grooming  by adult persons. The seriousness of this conduct is compounded by the fact that at the very time you were engaged in this, you were subject to a specific prohibition to stop you having any unsupervised contact with any persons under the  age of 16. This breach is what constitutes the sixth of the offences I have noted above.

I have also had regard to your record. This is a very poor record indeed for a young man who is now only 22 years old. You have accrued some 24 convictions since 2010. These disclose a wide variety of offending, including numerous road traffic offences, crimes of dishonesty and public order, breaches of court orders and a number of assaults. The convictions for assaults were in some instances aggravated by injury or for having been committed while on bail. Of greater concern is that your record also discloses sexual offending, namely a conviction in 2011 of having sexual intercourse with an older child.

I have also had regard to the two Criminal Justice Social Work Reports. I have noted your current  personal circumstance,  and those of your upbringing. You have a supportive partner.  However, those Reports also  disclose that you are capable of causing serious harm and that re-offending is considered likely to occur in the short to medium term. You went so far as to state to the author of those reports that you would have ‘no chance’ of staying out of trouble if you returned to Glenrothes.  You are also noted to be immature and to seem to have little appreciation of the consequences of your actions on others or indeed for the seriousness of the situation in which you now find yourself. You have a poor record of complying with non-custodial court orders, as is demonstrated by your conviction for breach of the special bail condition I have already referred to. The author of those Reports strongly urges the need for some form of structured supervision in the community to manage the risk that you pose.

I have also had regard to all that has been said on your behalf. The terms of the Social Work Reports were accepted as was their assessment of risk and need for post-custodial supervision. Your delinquent record was also accepted. Little more was capable of being said by way of mitigation.

In the light of all of the information before me, I have considered whether a custodial sentence is necessary. The crimes of which you have been found guilty are very serious and have the features I have already described. Of particular concern is the commission of the communication breaches at a point in time when you were under a prohibition from having  contact with children of the ages of these two complainers. The Court cannot but regard this in the most serious light.

In the whole circumstances,  I conclude  that there is no alternative to a custodial sentence.  I have also concluded that an extended sentence is necessary to manage the risk that you pose in respect of further violent and sexual offending.

By reason of the different offences, and their character, it is appropriate that I impose separate sentences.

In respect of the two convictions for sending sexualised texts to older children, the extended sentence I impose is one of 5 years. This shall be comprised of a custodial period of 4 years and an extension  period of one  year.

In respect of the three assaults, I take account of the fact that guilty pleas were tendered in respect of those before the trial, albeit only accepted at the end of the Crown case. The cumulo sentence I impose is one of 32 months. But for those pleas, I would have imposed a sentence of 4 years.

Finally, in relation to the breach of the special bail condition, I also regard this as quite serious. Had you not breached this condition, you would not have been in a position to secure the mobile numbers of the complainers or to send the sexualised test messages that you did. The sentence I impose for that breach is 9 months.

In the light of your age, the sentences I have imposed shall run concurrently and shall be backdated to the period when you were first taken into custody in respect of these matters, on  26 May 2014.

You are now liable to comply with the notification requirements under Part 2 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 for an indefinite period. And, finally, I direct the clerk of court to intimate details of your conviction to the Scottish Ministers in terms of section 7(1) of the Protection of the Vulnerable Groups (Scotland) Act 2007”.