HMA v James McCarten

At the High Court, Judge Kenneth Maciver, QC, sentenced James McCarten to life imprisonment with a punishment part of 15 years after the accused was convicted of brutally murdering his partner.

On sentencing, Sheriff Maciver made the following statement in court:

"On the day when the jury in Glasgow convicted you of murder, I advised you that you would be sentenced to life imprisonment because of the requirement of the law, but also that I am required to fix a punishment part to that sentence, this being the number of years which you must serve before you will be entitled to apply for parole. Obviously, the circumstances of the crime must play an important part in the assessment of this aspect of the sentencing process and I have now had an opportunity to consider some of the features of this case which I think are important in that connection.

It is clear that at your trial an important part of the jury’s decision centred on the severity of the injury which you inflicted on your partner, Anna Rosenberg and I will say something about that before dealing with other factors. 

This small slight woman had injuries akin to those which may be expected in serious trauma such as a car crash, in that she had multiple rib fractures, 28 I think, a lacerated liver and spinal bone fractures.  She also had a broken collarbone, throat compression and bleeding into the cavities of her brain as a consequence of heavy and repeated impacts to her face and head. Although you gave evidence, and in that evidence accepted responsibility for the injuries, you said little or nothing about the detail of how they occurred and you leave me with no alternative but to reach my own conclusions based mainly on the expert forensic evidence at the trial but also upon on my own court-acquired experience. It seems clear that the head and throat injuries were caused by repeated full force punching, probably whilst you were holding her either by the throat or by an arm, and there must have been many heavy blows in order to cause these injuries, and the extreme swelling of your right hand, which was observed in the police station. The body injuries were I believe caused by stamping or kicking or jumping on her, and again while you provide little detail, that must have occurred on a large number of occasions to cause a total of 31 bone fractures, even taking into account your large and powerful build and her slightness.

I am forced to the view that this was a sustained, violent and brutal attack and I am clear from the evidence at trial that it was carried out more than an hour and a half after your discovery of her having had sexual intercourse with your life-long friend. That time period and the different approach which you took to your friend, talking to him about what had happened, allowing him to remove his glasses before you butted him, and asking him to leave the house, also leads me to believe that the murderous attack on Miss Rosenberg was carried out wilfully and cold-bloodedly for the purpose of punishing her for that liaison. In that connection I am bound to observe that you have previous convictions for violence and a previous conviction which has a domestic aspect to it.

The second factor of note here is a matter which was not played out to any great extent in the trial, because it was not especially relevant then, but it is a matter of significance today. It is clear from the injuries which Miss Rosenberg sustained, and from the evidence of the pathologist, that these injuries led to restriction of her ability to breathe because of her broken ribs and the bleeding associated with the injuries to her throat, mouth and nose.  Alongside that was pathological evidence that she aspirated blood and therefore evidence that she lived on for a period after this attack and perhaps for up to half an hour after it. During that period, when it must have been obvious that she was dying a slow and painful death, you did nothing to assist and within a couple of hours thereafter you changed clothes and left the house to watch, of all things, a boxing match. You thought nothing of her condition, performed no checks on her, and when you did return to the house the next day after drinking with friends, your first thought was to exculpate yourself, and you began crude and ultimately inept and hopeless attempts to deflect responsibility from yourself and raise issues of accident. You attempted to clean up the blood and the bedding, and you dressed and moved her body and you gave the emergency services and the police a false account of what had happened to her. Allied to your conduct the night before, this demonstrates a callous and heartless disregard for her and a selfish desire to avoid responsibility for the savage onslaught of violence which brought her life to an end.

Obviously, in respect of that crime which resulted in a jury conviction on charge 3, a sentence requires to be passed, but because it did not greatly hinder the murder enquiry which quickly followed, I will restrict it to a sentence of four years imprisonment running concurrently with the life sentence.  There will also be a concurrent 6 month sentence in respect of charge 1, the assault on Mr Mclean.

Returning to charge 2, the murder charge, and taking into account the features referred to above, the requirements of the law in this area, and what has been ably pled on your behalf in mitigation by the Dean of Faculty, I proceed to sentence. The appropriate punishment part has been reduced by one year to take account of the fact that you accepted responsibility with all that this entails, and that the trial was thus truncated. You will therefore be sentenced to life imprisonment with a punishment part of 15 years, this sentence to run from 14 September 2016."