HMA v Gary Stevenson

At the High Court in Edinburgh on 9 May 2016, Lady Rae sentenced Gary Stevenson to life imprisonment with a punishment part of 17 years after the accused pleaded guilty to the murder of Katy Rourke.

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

“Gary Stevenson, you have pleaded guilty to the murder of a young woman by repeatedly stabbing her. 

The reason you have given for having done so is her rejection of your sexual advances. You did not accept that decision and as a result you started to assault her.  

When she tried to fight back and shout for help you struck her to quieten her, then took the time to go into the kitchen to retrieve a knife which you used to kill her. 

Although you have admitted your crime from the outset and you have pleaded guilty at an early stage thus avoiding a trial, it is the view of the social worker who carried out the criminal justice social work report for this court that you do not truly accept responsibility, in the sense that you blame your alcohol intake and the fact that the deceased rejected you. 

Neither of these reasons is an excuse for, nor are those reasons mitigatory of your actions. I note too with some concern that the social worker detected no victim empathy or remorse on your part.   

I have listened carefully to Mr Findlay’s very full submissions on your behalf, together with his quotation of words written by you, displaying, on the face of it, considerable remorse and regret for your actions and an appreciation of the extreme harm that you have caused. 

You should reflect on the fact that you have needlessly and brutally destroyed a young life and from my reading of the victim impact statements from Miss Rourke’s parents and her sisters, you have devastated her family. 

I have been addressed this morning on the question as to whether I ought to hold that there was a significant sexual element in this case, the result of which would necessitate you being placed on the sex offenders register for an indefinite period. After hearing submissions and having regard to the circumstances of this tragic event, all as set out in the agreed narrative, I am satisfied that there was indeed a significant sexual element in this crime.  

You killed Miss Rourke because she rejected your sexual advances and because she refused to engage in sexual intercourse. You were simply, on this occasion, not prepared to take ‘no’ for an answer and you deliberately killed her. On the facts of this case there was indeed a very significant sexual aspect to this particular crime.  

Disturbingly and as Mr Findlay suggested, ‘chillingly’, you said to police officers, after you detention some time after the killing, that, if it had not been Miss Rourke, it would have been someone else. 

That was a spontaneous comment. I accept of course that that comment does not imply you would necessarily have attacked another woman but it does show, in the cool light of day, that you were prepared to react violently to rejection. 

In view of the timing of your plea, I am prepared to allow a discount to the punishment part which I am about to impose. That discount will be three years. 

In respect of a murder charge, there is only one sentence which I can impose, although I require to fix a punishment part, that is, the minimum period of time that you require to serve in prison to satisfy the requirements of retribution and deterrence, leaving aside the question of the risk which you pose to the public. The effect of this will be that you will not be eligible for parole or release until the punishment part has expired. 

Thereafter it will be for the Parole Board for Scotland to consider whether you still present a risk to the public, or, whether you can be released on a life licence with appropriate conditions. If you are still considered a serious risk to the public, after the punishment part has expired, you will not be released.  

In selecting the punishment part I shall have regard to all of the matters put before me by your senior counsel, in particular your lack of a previous record of convictions, your history of employment, your expressions of remorse and your early acceptance of the act of killing this young woman. 

But, having regard to the circumstances of this brutal killing and your stated reason for what you did, I have no option but to fix a significant and lengthy period. 

On the murder charge you will be sentenced to life imprisonment and the punishment part, but for the discount, would have been 20 years. I shall discount that by three years thus the punishment part will be 17 years, backdated to 2 January 2016 when you were first remanded in custody. 

Having taken the view that there was a significant sexual element, you will be served with a notice by the clerk, advising you of the notification requirements for an indefinite period under the Sexual Offences legislation.”