HMA v Zhi Min Chen

At the High Court in Glasgow today, 17 May 2019, Lord Arthurson sentenced Zhi Min Chen to life imprisonment with a punishment part of 20 years after the accused pled guilty to the murder of Tracy Wylde in 1997.

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

“Zhi Min Chen, I require to sentence you today for the crime of murder, all in terms of an indictment to which you pled guilty at this court on 24 April 2019.

“Tracy Wylde was 21 years of age when you murdered her in her own flat in Glasgow on 24 November 1997. She was a daughter, a sister and the young mother of a three-year-old child.

“You should be under no illusions concerning the damage and trauma that your murderous attack that day upon Ms Wylde has caused and indeed has continued to cause down the decades and beyond to her family.

“In particular her daughter has grown into adulthood without a mother, and I have myself read a moving and powerful impact statement prepared by her in advance of today’s sentencing hearing.

“You, however, having inflicted this terrible loss upon the family of your victim, which was surely exacerbated by the many years which they have endured of not knowing who took the life of their loved one and in what circumstances, have proceeded to enjoy the prime years of your adult life in undetected freedom, including establishing a family and a business during those years.

“You are now 44 years of age, and the court today requires to hold you to account and sentence you for a crime which you committed 21-and-a-half years ago at the age of 22.

“You strangled Ms Wylde to death by your own hand to the extent of causing asphyxia and the fracture of the hyoid bone and right superior thyroid horn within her neck. You also inflicted a bite mark on her body.

“You, in short, committed a brutal, cowardly and murderous attack on a vulnerable young woman in her own home. You then fled the scene, taking care to remove Ms Wylde’s house keys and to lock the flat door behind you, and you have since avoided justice for two decades.

“The background report which has been prepared for today’s hearing discloses that you have now, all these years later, expressed appropriate remorse for your crime, albeit that you have within that report sought to deploy a degree of blame towards your victim for your criminal conduct.

“I note your own account of your personal circumstances in 1997 and indeed your version of the events inside the flat on 24 November 1997, as expressed by you to the author of the background report.

“I also acknowledge that in tendering your plea of guilty you have, even at this very late stage, demonstrated that you have nevertheless now at last accepted your criminal responsibility in this matter.

“You have no previous convictions, and have enjoyed for some years now a stable family and working life.

“I have listened with care to the helpful submissions advanced this morning on your behalf by your senior counsel, and I propose to take all that he has said into account as I turn shortly to the selection of an appropriate punishment part component of the disposal to be imposed.

“You will be aware that for the crime of murder the sentence is fixed by law, and at the conclusion of these remarks I shall duly impose a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment upon you.

“You should understand that a life sentence means that however long a period you serve in prison, you will be on licence for the rest of your life following upon any release, and that if you were then to breach any licence condition you would be liable to recall to prison.

“In the meantime the court today requires to set the period of time which you will serve in custody before being considered for any release on life licence. This is the punishment part of your life sentence, which in determining I must reflect the need to punish you for the crime of murder which you have committed and to deter you and others from committing murder.

“In fixing this punishment part the court is required to ignore any risk that you may pose to the public in the future. This, of course, does not mean that you will serve only this period.

“It will be a matter for the Parole Board for Scotland to determine when it is safe for you to be released from custody, albeit the question of parole cannot arise until the punishment period has passed.

“In addition, the court requires to take into account the seriousness of the crime of murder in respect of which you have been convicted.

“In the whole circumstances of your case I consider that the appropriate punishment part to be set on this indictment requires to be a period of 20 years, which will be backdated to 11 July 2018, being the date of your initial remand in custody in respect of this crime.

“I accordingly now sentence you to life imprisonment, duly backdated, and fix the punishment part at 20 years. But for the timing of your plea of guilty in this case I can advise you that the punishment part would have been fixed at a period of 22 years.”

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