HMA v James Macdonald

At the High Court in Edinburgh today, 13 December 2016, Lord Boyd of Duncansby sentenced James Macdonald to 12 years imprisonment after the accused pled guilty to attempted murder with a chainsaw.

On sentencing, Lord Boyd made the following statement in court:

“James Macdonald, you have pled guilty to the attempted murder of John MacPherson and the assault to severe injury, permanent disfigurement, permanent impairment and danger of life of his wife Flora MacPherson.

By your plea of guilty to attempted murder you have accepted that either you set out to deliberately kill Mr MacPherson or that you displayed such gross and wicked recklessness as to not care whether or not he lived or died.

In the month prior to the attack you texted and phoned your partner, Tracey MacPherson, abusing her, telling her that you had used a power saw to put in the door of her flat and repeatedly threatening to kill her. She was so afraid that she reported her concerns to the police and advised her parents to lock their doors.

One month later you entered her parents’ house uninvited armed with a chainsaw which you had already started. You stood in their living room revving the saw shouting and swearing and threatening to kill their daughter. You struck Mrs MacPherson twice on the arm and wrist.

When Mr MacPherson attempted to protect his wife you deliberately swung the chainsaw at him striking him on the arms all the time pulling the chord and revving the saw. When he fell to his knees over the couch you continued your attack striking him on the back, neck and chest.

This was a cruel and cowardly attack on an elderly couple who had done you no harm but had the misfortune of being the parents of the women who had recently been your partner. The injuries that you caused were truly horrific.

In Mr MacPherson’s case it was only by the skill of the medical teams at Belford Hospital and Glasgow Royal Infirmary the he survived. I note that he had to undergo a nine hour operation to reattach his right arm.

The consequences, both physical and psychological, will be with both of Mr and Mrs MacPherson for the rest of their lives. In Mr MacPherson’s case he will be left with functional deficits in both upper limbs and hands.

So far as Tracey MacPherson is concerned she escaped physical injury, but I have no doubt that the psychological injury will be particularly acute.

The extent of the injury and suffering that you caused to all your victims is graphically recounted in their victim statements.

I have read the criminal justice social work report. I am prepared to accept Mr Robertson’s submission that you are remorseful though I am bound to say that does not come across from the report. Indeed you appear to minimise your actions.

I take into account the fact that while you have a criminal record these offences are of a different order of magnitude to your previous convictions. I note too that you are said to have good work ethic.

I have seen a number of references submitted on your behalf. It is clear that you are well regarded in the community and that people who know you regard these offences as out of character. It is also to your credit that you have pleaded guilty.

Nevertheless, this was a murderous attack on an innocent elderly couple leaving with them with life changing and lifelong injuries. It can only be marked by a lengthy custodial sentence.

On charge 3 had you been convicted after trial I would have imposed a sentence of one year imprisonment. In view of the plea I shall discount that to nine months imprisonment.

On charge 4 the sentence is one nine months imprisonment discounted from one year.

On charge 5 the sentence is 16 months discounted from 20 months.

On charges 6 and 7 I shall impose a cumulo sentence. Had you been convicted after trial I would have imposed a sentence of 15 years imprisonment. In view of the plea I shall discount it to 11 years three months.

The sentences on charges 4 and 5 and 6 and 7 shall be served concurrently but shall be consecutive to the sentence on charge 3 making a total of 12 years imprisonment. I shall backdate the sentence to 21 July 2016.”