HMA v Steven Jackson and Michelle Higgins

At the High Court in Livingston today, 17 January 2017, Lady Rae sentenced Steven Jackson to life imprisonment with a punishment part of 26 years after the accused was convicted of the murder of Kimberley MacKenzie, while his co-accused Michelle Higgins was sentenced to eight years' imprisonment for attempting to pervert the course of justice.

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

“You have both been convicted unanimously by the jury of very serious charges.

In your case Mr Jackson you were convicted of murder and an attempt to pervert the course of justice by trying to cover up your crime, which included trying to dispose of the body of Kimberley MacKenzie. 

In your case Miss Higgins you were convicted of acting along with your partner in the attempt to pervert the course of justice by assisting him to cover up his crime.

The behaviour of both of you was despicable and callous. The killing appears to have been a wholly motiveless and brutal murder of a defenceless woman. 

According to the pathology evidence, Miss McKenzie sustained around, or in excess of, 10 blows to her head, inflicted with a hammer or similar instrument. This attack resulted in devastating injuries to her skull and brain and which led to her death. 

Not satisfied with inflicting such serious injuries upon this lady, you Mr Jackson then struck her with a knife or knives, inflicting approximately 40 sharp force injuries to her body, which included injuries of a defensive nature. Many, if not all, of those injuries were inflicted upon her when she was still alive.

There appeared, from the evidence, to be no reason whatsoever for such a brutal attack.

Miss Higgins, in your case the jury found the murder charge not proven but according to your own evidence, throughout the whole of the attack you remained and watched. You did nothing to assist the deceased or to summon help at any stage.

Of course, that does not make you responsible for any crime for which you can be punished.

You say you were terrified of your co-accused and that is why you acted as you did. You claim to have been shocked and horrified at what you witnessed.

You professed to be anxious to get away from your co-accused. Despite that you did not leave, but remained with him. 

You assisted him to move the body of the deceased into the bathroom of your house and then into the bath. 

Thereafter you were seen in the public streets in Montrose, walking hand in hand with the man you say you feared and you visited shops together in the High Street.

At one point you also went out, alone, to purchase the saw which you knew was to be used to cut up this poor woman’s body. In a subsequent text reply to your co-accused, who requested assistance in cutting up the body, part of your reply included, in text language, the words, ‘laugh out loud’. 

When police visited the flat searching for the deceased you made no attempt to seek their help.

After witnessing the killing you assisted your co-accused to pack up the body parts and transport some to your own flat. While doing all of this you were planning to set up home with another man and for a period continued to communicate by text with the man you say you feared.

Having regard to all of this behaviour, I find it very difficult to believe that you were as horrified and as fearful as you professed to be when giving your evidence. However, to your credit you have been prepared to express remorse although you have, in my view, minimized the extent of your involvement in charge two.

What you both did to the body of the deceased shows a level of depravity, thankfully, not often seen in these courts.

You, Mr Jackson boasted about what you did, not only in respect of the killing, but you boasted that you were sexually aroused when cutting up the body of the deceased. What is even more concerning is that you appear to have told a social worker that, faced with a dead body in similar circumstances, you would feel constrained to act in a similar fashion.

Unlike your co-accused, you have expressed no remorse whatsoever for your criminal actions.

In respect of the murder charge, there is only one sentence which I can impose, and that is life imprisonment.I also require to make an order setting what is called a punishment part, that is, the minimum period of time that you Mr Jackson require to serve in prison to satisfy the requirements of retribution and deterrence.

Having regard to the very serious nature of what is contained in charge 2, I intend to take that into account when assessing an appropriate punishment part and consequently I shall increase the period which I would have otherwise imposed on charge 1. I am aware that that enhancement must reflect only the elements of retribution and deterrence. In view of that increase I shall impose a concurrent sentence on charge two. 

The effect of this will be that you, Mr Jackson, will not be eligible for parole or release until the whole of 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. If you are still considered a serious risk, after the punishment part has expired, you will not be released. 

I shall deal with charge 2 first. On that charge the sentence will be eight years imprisonment and that sentence will be the same in respect of both of you. I see no reason to distinguish between you. You are both equally guilty of that charge and all of its elements as found proven by the jury.

To be clear, that is not the level of the enhancement to the punishment part in respect of charge one. I shall enhance that punishment part by four years to reflect only the elements of retribution and deterrence.

On charge 1 you Mr Jackson will be sentenced to life imprisonment and in view the brutality and nature of this attack, together with the aggravating factors, including the circumstances of charge 2, the punishment part I shall impose is 26 years. I shall impose a concurrent sentence of eight years in respect of charge 2. 

You were on several bail orders at the time of these offences and I note your remand had been interrupted by a subsequent sentence which ended on 1 December 2016. I shall have regard to the period you served on remand before the start of that sentence by not imposing an additional period in respect of the bail aggravations. Your sentence will therefore be backdated to 2 December 2016.

You Miss Higgins you will be sentenced to a period of eight years imprisonment in respect of charge 2. That sentence will be backdated to 9 November 2015.”