Today at the High Court in Edinburgh Lord Bracadale sentenced Stewart Blackburn to detention for life after he was found guilty of the murder of Jessica McCage in Arbroath on the 25 April 2009. The punishment part of the sentence was fixed at 21 years.

On sentencing Lord Bracadale made the following statement in court:

“On charge 4 the jury found you guilty of the murder of Jessica McCagh.

On that charge I sentence you, as I am required to do by law in the light of your age, to be detained in a young offenders institution and be liable to be detained for life.  The sentence will be backdated to 27 April 2009.

On each of charges 1 and 2 you will be admonished.

I am also required to order that you serve a period of years as a punishment part of your sentence on the charge of murder.  In doing that I have to have regard to the seriousness of the offence and your previous convictions.

You, and others, should understand that that does not mean that you will be released at the end of that period.  It means that after that period has expired your case can be considered by the Parole Board and they will decide whether, having regard to the protection of the public, you might be released and, if so, at what stage.

The evidence disclosed that there were three stages in the murder of Jessica McCagh.  First, you threw petrol over her.  Then you set fire to her.  The expert evidence made it clear that that was a more difficult thing to do than many of us would have thought and must have involved holding a naked flame to her or the bedclothes in order to set her alight.  Once she was alight you did something of quite extraordinary cruelty; you held the door of the bedroom shut to prevent her escape.  Jessica McCagh was your girlfriend, aged 17 years, and she died a terrible death at your hands. 

In addition, the jury found that on an earlier occasion you had threatened to burn with petrol the house of her parents, where she was then living. 

You have a previous conviction for assault and a history of violence as a child.  You have admitted to the social worker who prepared the background report that when you were 13 years of age you threw a petrol bomb at a house because of a fall out with an occupant.

Against that background the level of wickedness reflected in the commission of this murder must be visited with a long punishment part.  I do limit it somewhat on account of your age and your background.

I order that you serve a punishment part of  21 years”.