Man convicted of murder following re-trial fails in appeal against ‘excessive’ punishment part

Lord Carloway
Lord Carloway

A man found guilty of murder for a second time following a re-trial had had an appeal against his sentence dismissed.

Cameron Laurie, who was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum custodial period of 18 years after being convicted, along with co-accused Ryan Gibb, of the murder of James Chadwick in Aberdeen, claimed that the punishment part imposed was “excessive”, but the Appeal Court of the High Court of Justiciary refused the appeal.

The Lord Justice General, Lord Carloway, sitting with Lord Drummond Young and Lord Turnbull, heard the appellant and his co-accused had previously been convicted of the murder and a second charge, in August 2017, of attempting to defeat the ends of justice by attempting to clean up the blood from the locus and providing the emergency services with a misleading address where an unknown assault victim might be found.

A sentence of life imprisonment and a punishment part of 18 years had been imposed on charge (1), together with a sentence of one year concurrent on charge (2). 

But the convictions were quashed in November 2017 on the ground that the previous trial judge ought to have left the issue of culpable homicide to the jury. 

Following a re-trial at the High Court in Aberdeen in July 2018, the two accused were convicted again, but the jury jury deleted a part of the libel which read, “repeatedly strike him on the head and body with a dog lead”. 

The same sentence of life imprisonment with an 18-year punishment part was re-imposed on both accused after the re-trial, but a concurrent five years was selected in respect of charge (2).

In the appeal it was argued the appellant’s involvement had become “less serious” than it had been after the first trial and therefore that there ought to have been a lower punishment part because of the deletion of the reference to the use of the dog lead in the second trial. 

There had been a qualitative basis for distinguishing between the two accused. 

There had been no direct evidence linking the appellant to the kicking or stamping, whereas the co-accused was in a different position.

In relation to the cleaning up operation, which counsel described as “amateurish”, in terms of Ferguson v HM Advocate 2010 SCCR 399, the sentence on this charge should not have been higher than it had been after the first trial.

Refusing the appeal, the judges observed that the deletion of the reference to the use of the dog lead was “not a significant part of the overall violence”.

Delivering the opinion of the court, the Lord Justice General said: “The difficulty with the appellant’s contention is that neither accused elected to provide any evidence on how or why this murder came to have been committed. Neither testified to his part in the attack. 

“The jury accepted that they had both been involved in a concerted assault on the deceased. 

“In that state of affairs there was no substantial basis upon which the trial judge could have distinguished between the involvement of the two accused. He was not asked to do so. 

“The deletion of the use of the dog lead was not a significant part of the overall violence. There is therefore no substance in the grounds of appeal against the punishment part.

“As the judge reports, this was a very violent attack upon a vulnerable person in his own home. 

“Given the appellant’s record, the period selected cannot be regarded as excessive. To that extent the appeal is refused.”

However, the sentence on charge (2) was reduced by to one year, consistent with the principle in Ferguson v HM Advocate 2010 SCCR 399, that “a sentence following a retrial should not normally be greater than that originally imposed”.

© Scottish Legal News Ltd 2021

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