HMA v Leslie Fraser

At the High Court in Edinburgh today (18 December 2019) Lord Beckett sentenced Leslie Fraser to life imprisonment, with a punishment part of 20 years, after he was found guilty of murder.

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

“Leslie Fraser. You have been found guilty of murdering Kevin Byrne. For murder, the punishment is fixed by law. You will be sentenced to life imprisonment.

I must fix the punishment part, which is the period of time you will serve in custody before being considered for parole. In doing so, I must reflect the need to punish you for the crime of murder and to deter you and others from committing murder. However, 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 part has passed.

I must also take account of the seriousness of the crime of murder of which you have been convicted and your record of previous convictions.

In 2013 you were sent to prison for having a knife in a public place. You have been convicted of charges involving at least an element of assault on six occasions giving rise to seven convictions. Three of the convictions are aggravated by causing injury.

Of particular significance is a conviction in the High Court in 2006 for assault and robbery which led to detention for three years with a supervised release order and also a conviction on sheriff court indictment for assault to injury and attempted robbery in 2018 for which you were sent to prison for a year.

The infliction of six stabbing injuries to the neck area, with one of them severing the jugular vein and carotid artery, combined with indications that you strangled the deceased, demonstrates that this was a case of intentional murder. On account of long-standing grievances, you had announced that you were going to do exactly what you did a week or so beforehand. All of this was done to a man with only one leg. He had no chance of defending himself from you. It was a truly appalling crime. That you were almost certainly intoxicated provides no mitigation.

As a result of your brutal and merciless assault, Mr Byrne lost his life at the age of 45 and his family and friends lost him forever. I have read of the impact on his 14 year old daughter who writes realistically but eloquently of the part her father played in her life, how her immediate situation is affected and of the hopes she had held for a future from which he will now be missing. She misses him terribly.

Having regard to the whole circumstances, the punishment part will be one of 20 years, backdated to 20 May 2019 taking account of the period of imprisonment which interrupted your remand in custody.

This does not mean that this is a sentence of 20 years. You are sentenced to life imprisonment and you 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.”