HMA v Jagtar Singh

At the High Court in Glasgow today, 13 September 2018, Lord Beckett sentenced Jagtar Singh to life imprisonment with a punishment part of 17 years, after the offender was found guilty of murdering a man nearly 25 years ago.

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

“You have been found guilty of murdering Ansar Hussain Shah. For murder, the punishment is fixed by law. You will be sentenced to life imprisonment.

I must fix the 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, the law requires me to ignore any 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.

In this case, I infer, you arrived at the scene equipped with a large knife and ready to do violence. You stabbed Mr Shah three times on the left side of his chest. You inflicted wounds which he could not have survived. Two of the wounds, which required the application of considerable force, extended into the heart. One of those wounds extended 25cm, or 10 inches, inwards. You fled the scene and fled the country, managing to avoid justice for almost a quarter of a century.

As a result of your vicious and gratuitous assault, Mr Shah lost his life at the age of 38 and his family, whom he was supporting, lost him forever. It is plain from the evidence in the trial that Mr Shah was a responsible man who was well liked and respected by his colleagues and those he employed. Mr Shah’s two daughters and their mother who was married to him at the time of his death have written of the terrible loss they suffered and the appalling consequences for their family. I have read heart-breaking descriptions of the scene when his wife and two young children learned of his sudden death. One daughter was born two months after he died and so she never met her father. His son never got over the loss of his father.

You, on the other hand, having caused such terrible grief, illness and suffering remained at liberty for more than 24 years before you were arrested following excellent detective work by police officers who revisited the case in the last few years. As a result of their efforts, and invaluable international cooperation, justice which was delayed has not been denied.

Had you been arrested in 1993, you would no doubt have been convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment and you may well have been released by now. Instead, your actions have allowed you to spend many of the best years of your adult life in freedom and I must take these considerations into account in weighing the significance of you now being 51 years old and facing sentence for a crime that you committed nearly 25 years ago as a young man of 27.

What could be said in mitigation has been said on your behalf by Mr Ross. I take account of the absence of any convictions and what I have heard of your family circumstances and your employment record.

Having regard to the whole circumstances, the punishment part on the charge of murder will be one of 17 years, backdated to 9 November 2017 when you were taken into detention.

This does not mean that this is a sentence of 17 years. You are sentenced to life imprisonment and you will serve at least 17 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.”