HMA v Christopher, Natalie and Sharon Hollinsworth

At the High Court in Edinburgh Lord Doherty sentenced Christopher, Natalie and Sharon Hollinsworth after they pled guilty to charges in relation to the murder of Andrew Stephen Oates.

On sentencing Lord Doherty made the following statement in court:

Christopher Hollinsworth

You have pled guilty to conspiring with your mother and your sister to murder your father.

I take account of your previous good record and what has been said so ably on your behalf. I take particular account of your youth. You were aged only 17 at the time of the offence.

I accept that you, your mother and your sister lived in fear of your father, that your father was a very difficult person to live with, and that there is a considerable body of evidence which indicates he was controlling and abusive, particularly to your mother, and that latterly you yourself also became a focus of such behaviour. Your childhood, adolescence and development have undoubtedly been marred by your experiences. These factors, and your remorse, provide some mitigation for what you did, and enable me to exercise some leniency: but they cannot justify or excuse it. The gravity of the crime of conspiracy to murder, and the whole circumstances, make a significant custodial sentence necessary and appropriate.

Had you not pled guilty the sentence which I would have imposed would have been five years detention. However, you accepted your guilt. You pled guilty at the trial diet. In view of your plea I sentence you to four years two months detention. That sentence will be backdated to 31 July 2012.

Natalie Hollinsworth

You have pled guilty to conspiring with your mother and your brother to murder your stepfather, and of attempting to defeat the ends of justice in the various ways described in charge 4.

I take account of your previous good record and your achievements and what has been said so ably on your behalf. You were aged 20 at the time of the offence.

I accept that you, your mother and your brother lived in fear of your stepfather, that he was a very difficult character to live with, and that he was abusive, particularly towards your mother, but also latterly, to you and your brother. This resulted in your home life being troubled and you undertaking roles which you ought not to have had to, and being subjected to stresses to which no child or young person ought to have been exposed. I accept that there is evidence that as a result of your experiences you suffered post-traumatic stress disorder at the time of the offence. That does not diminish your criminal responsibility but it is a factor which I have regard to. I accept that you are remorseful.  Your difficult experiences provide some explanation and mitigation, but they do not justify or excuse your conduct. The mitigatory factors present in your case allow me to exercise some leniency, but the gravity of the crime of conspiracy to murder and the whole circumstances make a significant custodial sentence necessary and appropriate.

Had you not pled guilty the sentence which I would have imposed on charge 1 would have been five years imprisonment. While you were older than your brother at the time in your case the material indicating that you suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder leads me to conclude that the same starting point as for him is appropriate.

However, you accepted your guilt. You pled guilty at the trial diet. In view of that the sentence I impose on charge 1 is four years two months imprisonment. That sentence will be backdated to 31 July 2012.

Had you not pled guilty to charge 4 the sentence which I would have imposed would have been imprisonment for twelve months. In view of your plea I sentence you to 10 months imprisonment for that offence. That sentence will be consecutive to the sentence for charge 1.

Sharon Hollinsworth

You have pled guilty to conspiring with your children to murder your partner; to murdering him; and to attempting to defeat the ends of justice in the various ways described in charge 4.

I take account of your previous good record, and what has been said so ably on your behalf. Mr Oates was reclusive and suffered from depression, anxiety and mood swings. It is clear he was a very difficult man to live with. I accept that there is evidence he was a controlling personality and that you suffered physical and mental abuse from him during your relationship. You and your children lived in fear of him. I accept there is evidence that at the time of these offences you suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of your experiences with him.  That does not diminish your criminal responsibility for the terrible crimes you have committed, but it is a circumstance which I do have regard to. I take account of the fact that on the day of the murder the first blow you inflicted on Mr Oates came in response to an attempt by him to attack your son. I recognise that these are mitigatory factors which I require to take into account. I accept that you are remorseful. The fact remains that you conspired to murder him, and that a few days later, following the incident with your son, you brutally murdered Mr Oates by bludgeoning him to death with a hammer.

Had you not pled guilty the sentence which I would have imposed on charge 1 – the conspiracy to murder - would have been seven years imprisonment. 

However, you accepted your guilt. You pled guilty at the trial diet. In view of that the sentence I impose on charge 1 is five years ten months imprisonment. That sentence will be backdated to 31 July 2012.

The sentence which I would have imposed on charge 4 – the attempt to defeat the ends of justice - would have been twelve months imprisonment but for your plea of guilty. Having regard to that plea the sentence which I impose on that charge is 10  months imprisonment. That sentence will be consecutive to the sentence imposed on charge 1.

The sentence which I require to impose in relation to charge 2 – the murder - is life imprisonment. That sentence will be backdated to 31 July 2012. In fixing the punishment part I require to take account not only of the murder but also of the two other offences of which you have been convicted. Had it not been for your plea of guilty I would have fixed the punishment part at 12 years imprisonment. In view of your plea I fix the punishment part at 11 years imprisonment. When you are released after that period will be a matter for the Parole Board to determine.”