HMA v James Smith

At the High Court in Edinburgh Lord Matthews sentenced James Smith to life imprisonment with a punishment part of 17 years after he was found guilty of murder.

On sentencing Lord Matthews made the following statement in court:

"You were convicted by the jury of the murder of Alexander Cameron and an attempt to defeat the ends of justice by taking various steps, the worst of which were that you hogtied his body and then, using a mechanical digger, you buried him in a makeshift grave amongst a collection of debris. This was a dreadful way to treat a fellow human being.

As you know, 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 so released thereafter will be a matter for others.

In fixing that period, I have had regard to the circumstances of the offences as well as your previous record, which includes convictions for assault to severe injury and for assault to sever e injury and permanent disfigurement. As Mr Macara has said, those convictions are of some vintage but they are still of relevance.

I have also had regard to your age, your medical history, the terms of the psychiatric and Criminal Justice Social Work reports and what has been said on your behalf by Mr Macara.

There is no reason to think that the murder of Mr Cameron was planned. It appears to have been an impulsive act using weapons which were readily to hand.

Nonetheless, the deprivation of another person's life using weapons has to be treated severely. Given all the circumstances I have decided that the appropriate sentence on charge 1, which will run from 27 January 2015, is imprisonment for life with a punishment part of 17 years.

As far as charge 2 is concerned, I impose a concurrent sentence of 5 years imprisonment.

I should make it clear that, in fixing the punishment period on charge 1, I have had regard to the sentence on charge 2 and the case of Chalmers v HM Advocate in 2014. Had it not been for charge 2 the punishment part would have been 15 years".