HMA v Robert Stratton

At the High Court in Edinburgh today Lord Beckett sentenced Robert Stratton to life imprisonment after the accused was found guilty of a charge of murder and a further charge of culpable homicide. On sentencing Lord Beckett made the following statement in court:

You have been found guilty of murdering Julie McCash and killing David Sorrie.  For murder, the punishment is fixed by law. You will be sentenced to life imprisonment.

 I must fix a period of time which you will serve in custody before being considered for parole.

 In fixing this period, known as the punishment part, I must reflect the need to punish you for the crime of murder and to deter you and others from committing murder. In fixing the punishment part of your sentence the law requires me to ignore the risk that you may pose to the public in the future.

 This does not mean that you will serve just this period. It will be for the Parole Board to determine when it is safe for you to be released from prison. The question of parole cannot arise before the punishment period has passed.

 I must also take account of the seriousness of the crime of murder of which you have been convicted, combined with the other offence on the indictment and your record of previous convictions. That other offence is the very serious crime of culpable homicide.

 You have two convictions for assault which are not of great importance for present purposes. However in 2002, you were sentenced to imprisonment for seven years for attempted murder.

In this case, you took two knives out into the street and stabbed two people in the torso with one of them. In both cases the wounds penetrated deeply puncturing the heart and cutting the aorta in the case of Julie McCash and damaging the major vein from the liver in the case of David Sorrie.  It is not mitigating that you were intoxicated by alcohol and cocaine.

 As a result of your unnecessary violence, Ms McCash lost her life at the age of 43 and her family lost her forever.  She leaves behind three children and a grand-child and a grieving wider family. Two of her children have lost their mother at a very young age. I have read of how her daughter and her family have been deeply affected by their sudden and terrible loss and what Ms McCash meant to them.

 Mr Sorrie, presumably having witnessed the murder of Julie McCash, may have pursued you, but you were not acting in self-defence. Whilst I have to take account of provocation, I set it in the context of your having just committed a murder with a knife. You used one of your two knives to inflict a dreadful wound on David Sorrie which he could not survive despite the best efforts of the medical profession.

 I have read from his young daughters of the effect on them and their family of losing their father aged only 32. They describe their own loss and the grief felt by them, their mother and grandmother.

 There have plainly been profound and dreadful effects on the families of both of the deceased.

 What could be said in mitigation has been said on your behalf. In each case there was a single stab-wound. There was no prolonged pre-meditation and events developed in a somewhat spontaneous way, but nobody would have died if you had not taken the wholly unnecessary step of arming yourself with knives and leaving the safety of your house. There is no valid excuse for taking the law into your own hands in this way and the taking of two knives transformed a minor incident into two killings. Again and again this court sees the disastrous consequences which follow when people arm themselves with knives before committing assaults. In your case these assaults had fatal consequences and sentencing policy in these circumstances is clear.

 For someone with a conviction for attempted murder, who killed two people, and in one case the killing was murder, severe punishment is called for and it is necessary that you and others should be deterred from carrying knives and using them to commit assaults with the consequences I have described.

 For the conviction of culpable homicide on charge 3 you will go to prison for 10 years, backdated to 27 February 2017.

  Having regard to the whole circumstances, the punishment part on the charge of murder will be one of 23 years. This period of 23 years is also backdated to 27 February 2017 when you were remanded in custody.

 This does not mean that this is a sentence of 23 years on charge 2. You are sentenced to life imprisonment and you will serve at least 23 years before you can be considered for release on parole. It will be for the Parole Board to determine when you will ultimately be released and they will consider the safety of the public in reaching that decision.

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