HMA v PHILIP JAMES WATERS FRASER

Today at the High Court in Edinburgh Lord Menzies sentenced Philip James Waters Fraser to life imprisonment with a punishment part of 20 years after he pled guilty to the murder of Donna Elizabeth Forrest at Port Street, Balintore on 11 April 2010.

On sentencing Lord Menzies made the following statement in court:

“You have pled guilty to the most serious crime known to our law, namely murder.  You murdered a young woman who had everything to look forward to in life, who had recently completed a university degree, and who had done you no wrong.   You murdered her in an act of appalling violence and barbarity:  you broke into her house having first armed yourself with a hammer, took her from her bedroom to the kitchen of the house, and struck her several times about her head, fracturing her skull and causing trauma to her brain, and you inflicted 15 stab wounds to her head and body.

Your victim was the mother of a young girl who was then aged 10, who suffers from serious disabilities, and relied on her mother particularly to care for her and look after her.   You have taken away her mother, and you have deprived your victim’s family of her love, her company and her support.   She had loving parents, and a close relationship with her brother and sister.   You have committed a terrible wrong to each of these members of her family, which can never be put right or repaired.

The terrible thing which you did to Donna Forrest is made all the worse by your dreadful criminal record.   You committed this murder while released from prison on licence in respect of another murder which you committed in 1997.   At that time, you murdered your former wife, from whom you were divorced but with whom you resumed a close relationship.   When that relationship ended, you murdered her.   After your release on licence, and in contravention of the terms of that licence, you formed a close relationship with Donna Forrest.   After she ended that relationship you pestered her, upset her and made a nuisance of yourself, and then you murdered her.   You are a very dangerous man.

There is only one sentence which I can impose for murder, namely imprisonment for life.   I sentence you to imprisonment for life.   Standing your previous convictions, and the fact that you murdered again whilst on licence, it must be very unlikely that you will ever be released from prison on licence again;  that is not a decision for me, but for others, to take.   The law does however require me to set a punishment part of your sentence.   In doing so, I am required to discount the length of the punishment part which I would otherwise have imposed to reflect the fact that you have tendered a plea of guilty to this charge at the earliest possible opportunity.   In that respect I have regard to the views of the Appeal Court in the case of HMA v Boyle.

It is important that you, and the family of the deceased, and the public at large, should understand the effect of a punishment part of a life sentence.   It does not equate to a determinate custodial sentence of the same length - there is no question of early release before the expiry of the punishment part;  it merely means that you cannot apply to the Parole Board for release on licence before the punishment part has expired.   You may never be released from prison.

Having regard to the awful circumstances of this crime, and to the fact that it was premeditated, as you had already armed yourself with a hammer, and your previous convictions (particularly that for murder), if you had been convicted of this offence after trial I should have set a punishment part of 24 years.   To reflect the early plea of guilty, I discount that period by one sixth, with the result that I set the punishment part at 20 years.

I backdate that to 12 April 2010 to reflect the period already spent in custody.”.