HMA v James Lee Nolan

At the High Court in Glasgow on 5 July 2016, Lady Rae sentenced James Lee Nolan to life imprisonment with a punishment part of 20 years after the accused pled guilty to murdering an elderly man in his home.

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

"The deceased in this case was a vulnerable, defenceless, elderly man who was brutally killed in his own home in an apparently motiveless attack carried out by you. You now claim to have no memory of the incident despite your admissions in the days after the killing that you had repeatedly stabbed a man. As a result of your position, the family of the deceased will never know why you deprived them of their loved one in such a cruel manner. Your suggestion that you were in the deceased’s house in order to drink with him is not supported in any way by the pathology evidence which concludes that the deceased had no alcohol in his system.

For a man of only thirty three years of age you have an unenviable record of previous convictions. There are 51 convictions disclosing 80 separate offences, including convictions for assault and, disturbingly, you also have convictions for carrying knives.

There is little if any mitigation that can be presented in this case other than the fact that you have pleaded guilty, albeit only after a trial diet has been fixed. A trial in this case is now unnecessary, accordingly I am prepared to allow you a modest discount to the punishment part which I am about to impose. The discount will be two years.

In respect of the 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 might pose to the public in the future. You must understand that you will not be eligible for parole or release until the punishment part has expired. Thereafter it will be for the Parole Board and the Parole Board alone to consider whether you still present a risk to the public, or, whether you can be released on a life licence with appropriate conditions.   

The level of violence which you used to kill this old man was frankly appalling. He suffered 64 separate knife wounds along with a number of blunt force injuries. It is apparent from the nature of the knife wounds that Mr Ballantyne must have been conscious during the attack and tragically, as a result, suffered significantly during it. Having regard to the level of violence used in this cruel killing I have no option but to fix a significant and lengthy punishment part.

On the murder charge you will be sentenced to life imprisonment. The punishment part, but for the discount, would have been 22 years. I shall discount that by two years thus the punishment part will be 20 years, backdated to 16 September 2015 when you were first remanded in custody."