HMA v James Wright

At the High Court in Livingston today, 4 June 2018, Lord Matthews sentenced James Wright to life imprisonment with a punishment part of 20 years after the accused was found guilty of the murder of Craig McClelland.

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

“James Wright, you were found guilty by a jury of the senseless murder of Craig McClelland, an innocent young father of three and a much loved partner, son and brother.

“He was sailing through university and had everything to live for. On 23 July 2017 he left his partner and children to visit his brother to play the Xbox.

“He was never to reach his destination or to return home because he was brutally stabbed in the street for no reason brought out in the evidence other than blood lust.

“Sometimes in this court the awful realities with which we deal become sanitised when reduced to mere words.

“In this case, however, the words in one of the victim impact statements which I read may serve to some extent to bring home the enormity of this crime and its consequences.

“Mr McClelland’s partner as well as his mother, father and brother articulated what his loss meant to them and it is the words of his partner, referring to their children, which I have in mind.

“They are as follows: ‘I have to watch our three sons in pain, sobbing, crying, asking questions that I cannot answer. My three-year-old on his birthday built his daddy out of Lego. The despair in my six-year-old’s eyes when I couldn’t build a Lego set for him, not in the same way daddy did. The devastating sound of my baby searching for his daddy in the night, constantly shouting on him. The way he flaps his arms in excitement whenever he sees a picture of his daddy, it completely breaks my heart.’

“I don’t know if I will never forget the sight of an experienced paramedic almost breaking down in court as she relived her efforts to save Mr McClelland, who was begging not to be allowed to die.

“I know that you continue to protest your innocence but by their verdict the jury found you responsible for Mr McClelland’s murder and it now falls to me to pass sentence on you.

“I note that you have a number of previous convictions including two for carrying a sharp implement in public. I note also that your last sentence, for just such an offence, was imposed on 21 October 2016.

“On 13 February 2017 you were released early from that sentence and placed on a Home Detention Curfew, involving the use of an electronic tag. You breached that curfew and it was revoked 11 days later but you remained unlawfully at large for nearly six months, during which time you committed this awful offence. 

“I have no doubt that questions will be asked about that but I am afraid I have no answers.

“The only sentence which I can pass is one of life imprisonment but I also have to fix a period which must pass before you can apply for release on parole. That is known as the punishment part of the sentence.

“Whether you will be released thereafter will be a matter for others to decide but after any release you will, for the rest of your life, be subject to recall to prison if you breach the conditions of your licence. I know that whatever sentence you are ordered to serve will be wholly inadequate compared to the grief you have caused.

“I have had regard to your record, your personal circumstances, the terms of the report and what has been said on your behalf, but in truth there is nothing to be said in mitigation of what I have no doubt was the pre-meditated stabbing of a victim picked at random.

“The sentence is one of life imprisonment to run from 15 September 2017. I fix the punishment part at 20 years.”