HMA v SHAFQUAT SALEEM

At the High Court in Aberdeen Lord Stewart sentenced Shafquat Saleem to 13 years imprisonment for fire raising resulting in the unlawful killing of her brother Imran Saleem on 14 June 2001.

On sentencing Lord Stewart made the following statement in court:

"Shafquat Saleem you have been convicted by the verdict of the jury:

• On charge three, of wilful fireraising and the unlawful killing of your brother Imran Saleem on 14 June 2001 in the resulting fire
• On charge four of attempting to defeat the ends of justice on the same day by having your hair cut short to alter your appearance
• On charge five of embezzling, in the period 1 to 8 September 2001, the sum of £34,327 from the sub Post Office at Raeburn Place, Edinburgh, where you were the sub-postmistress
• On charge six of attempting to defeat the ends of justice by departing from the United Kingdom on 9 September 2001 and remaining abroad for between
nine and ten years until 11 April 2011

The fireraising consisted of pouring petrol through the letter box of the local authority flat at 30 oblique six Barn Park, Edinburgh, and setting fire to it. Your parents lived in the flat with your younger sister and brother Mussart Saleem and Imran Saleem and your uncle Khalid Saleem.

On the night in question your one-year old niece was staying over in the flat. Your brother Imran Saleem was overcome by smoke and fumes and died on the spot. The others survived unscathed by climbing on to a balcony and thanks to the early intervention of the fire brigade. On the evidence the attack on the property was part of a family feud involving, on one side your father and mother, and on the other your older sister and brother Rafath and Tanveer and yourself.

I must take account of the fact that the verdict means that you did not intend to kill your brother Imran. You have been convicted on the basis that you acted with others.
The evidence is silent as to the exact part that you played in the plot: but the evidence does indicate that you were not the driving force. The evidence also indicates that it was you who called the fire brigade minutes after the fire started. I am persuaded that I am entitled to give some weight to that evidence in your favour although you deny that you made the call. Indeed the Criminal Justice Social Work Report shows you to be in total denial about your involvement. You told the reporter that you were at home at the time. I note simply for the record, without attaching weight to the fact, that as senior counsel explained, on your clear instructions the ladies and gentlemen of the
jury were not told about your alibi and were offered no evidence to support it. I am prepared to accept that your change of appearance a few hours after the fire can fairly be treated as part of the plot and does not require to be marked by a separate sentence.

As regards the conviction for embezzlement I am not impressed with your version of events as recorded in the Criminal Justice Social Work Report. The evidence at the trial supports the inference that you removed all the bank notes from the post office in one fell swoop leaving behind only coins. You did this at a time when you knew the other key holder was on holiday. And you set the safe clock so that the safe could not be opened in the ordinary way for days after. In the absence of a serious alternative explanation it is proper to infer that you took the sum to finance your flight from justice, or at least your travel abroad, as your senior counsel properly recognises. You were of course in an important position of trust at the time.

The attempt to defeat the ends of justice by leaving the country on 9 September 2001 and staying away for more than nine years is a serious offence that requires to be marked by a distinct sentence. The evidence is that you went to Northern Cyprus a territory which did not have extradition arrangements with the United Kingdom. The social work report records you as saying that you became aware of charges shortly after moving to Cyprus and the context suggests that this includes charges against yourself.

I have taken account of all the circumstances including everything said on your behalf by Mr Duguid QC. I have had regard to the terms of the Criminal Justice Social Work Report with this qualification: Mr Duguid has persuaded me that the circumstances are unlikely to be repeated and that the risk of repetition is therefore negligible. I have had regard to the terms of the letter bearing to come from your mother asking for clemency principally in respect of charge three, fireraising and unlawful killing. I have to emphasise that I am not dealing with a private dispute between family members but with a crime that resulted in damage to property that did not belong to the family, a risk to other families living in neighbouring flats and the death of a young man. You are a first offender at the age now of 39 years.

Exercising such leniency as I can I shall sentence you to a total of thirteen years in prison. In respect of charge three and charge four together I sentence you to eight years imprisonment in cumulo backdated to 28 December 2012, the date of your conviction and remand pending sentencing. I have taken account of the fact that you spent a short period in custody on remand, four days or so, until bailed on 12 April 2011. On charge five, embezzlement, I sentence you to a period of three years imprisonment to
be consecutive to and to follow upon the cumulo sentence imposed in respect of charges three and four. In respect of charge six I sentence you to a period of two years imprisonment to be consecutive to and to follow upon the sentence imposed in respect of charge five."

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