HMA v Gary Smith

At the High Court in Edinburgh today Judge Hughes sentenced Gary Smith to life imprisonment after the accused pled guilty to a charge of murder. On sentencing Judge Hughes made the following statement in court:

You proceeded to trial on a charge of assaulting and murdering Joseph McMenemy. You changed your plea to guilty, subject to minor amendments, on the second day of the trial. For murder the punishment is fixed by law. You will be sentenced to life imprisonment.

I must fix a period of time, known as the punishment part, which you will serve in custody before you can be considered for parole. In fixing that period, I must reflect the need to punish you for the crime of 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. That is a matter of others.

You will not be automatically released on completion of the punishment part of the sentence. It will be for the parole board to determine when it is safe for you to be released from prison. The question of parole may only be considered after the punishment period has passed.

I am required by law to take into account the seriousness of the crime of murder to which you have pled guilty, together with your record of previous convictions. You have accumulated a number of convictions between 2009 and the date of this offence. These are all of a summary nature. They were all disposed of with non-custodial sentences. It is a matter of concern that you breached Community Payback Orders in 2016, shortly before committing the current offence.

 I am told that you can offer no explanation as to why you murdered Mr McMenemy. It was noted that you had been drinking alcohol. Whatever happened on that night on 15 November 2016 it is clear that whilst in Mr McMenemy’s home, you took a knife and repeatedly struck him on the head neck and body.

 This case clearly demonstrates why our courts take such a serious view of knife crimes

The medical records disclose that Mr McMenemy sustained at least 10 stab wounds to his neck, wounds around the centre and left side of his face and a further four stab wounds to his chest and shoulders. Stab wounds to his neck injured blood vessels and in particular damaged both his right and left jugular veins. The knife wounds cut into bone, his spine and penetrated through the skull. You inflicted all of these injuries in a cruel, vicious and frenzied attack.

As I mentioned earlier there is no explanation from you for your behaviour. It is a tragedy that Mr McMenemy died aged 27. He had a home, a job and a loving family with whom he was in regular contact. He had a promising future to look forward to. Because of your unnecessary and wicked violence he has lost his life. You have caused extreme distress to his family.

I have considered the terms of the Criminal Justice Social Work report which has been prepared on your behalf and the plea in mitigation made by your counsel. I am told that you have tried to account for what happened that night but you are unable to do so.

 Although you have pled guilty during the course of the trial, I have declined to discount the sentence in terms of section 196 of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995. My reasons for doing so are that your counsel had confirmed at the Preliminary Hearing that you had been advised of and were aware of your rights in terms of the said Act. You elected to proceed to trial and at that trial, evidence was heard from several witnesses. During the course of the trial the jurors were asked to view a video which contained distressing and harrowing scenes. Some members of the jury were visibly upset and steps had to be taken to offer them some respite. I was told that you yourself found this evidence distressing and this eventually led you to take the view that you should plead guilty when the case called on the following morning. In all of the circumstances I do not consider that a discount in the punishment part of the sentence is appropriate in this case.

I take into account the guidance given by the Appeal Court on appropriate sentences, for similar cases, set out in the case of H.M.A. V  Boyle. 2010J.C. 66.

In view of the circumstances of this case, the punishment part of the sentence will be one of 20 years. This will be backdated to 21st  November 2016 when you were first remanded in custody in respect of this matter. That does not mean that this is a sentence of twenty years. You are sentenced to life imprisonment and will serve at least 20 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.

The sentence of this court is therefore that you are sentenced to life imprisonment with a punishment part of 20 years to run from 21 November 2016.