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Attempting to defeat the ends of justice Appeal Successful

HMA v Cameron Laurie 2019

Mr Laurie has appealed against his conviction and sentence after being convicted of murder and attempting to defeat the ends of justice for the second time. He was convicted at Aberdeen High Court in July 2018 for the second time after a retrial. The appellant and his co accused, Mr Gibb, had previously been convicted of the same crimes in 2017, however in 2018 although they were both found guilty of murder the reference to the assault with the dog lead being a weapon was deleted.

The sentences imposed were quashed after the original trial because it was concluded by the appeal court that the trial judge should have left the issue of culpable homicide an option for the jury and this was not done. After retrial the same headline sentence for charge one of 18 years imprisonment was imposed for both co accused but in respect of charge 2 regarding the attempting to defeat the ends of justice a concurrent 5 year sentence was imposed, instead of the one year sentence originally imposed. The co accused, it was alleged at trial, had cleaned up the flat where the man was murdered and then telephoned 999 and stated an unknown man was assaulted in the street and they had told the emergency services the wrong address intentionally.

The original trial judge was of the view that the deceased had been assaulted in a ‘brutal fashion’ and left to die in his own home and deliberate attempts had been made to conceal his death. In relation to the second trial the appellant’s legal team made submissions that a lower punishment should have been imposed because reference to the dog lead was deleted in the charge by the jury and therefore this indicated less violence. It was also argued that in the second trial it was clear that Mr Laurie’s involvement was less than that of his co accused. It was also the co accused that called the emergency services, giving the wrong address and the appellant argued that the punishment for this element should not have been higher than the original trial.

The Appeal Court, however, in the circumstances, concluded as neither co accused gave evidence the trial the judge could not distinguish between them as the jury had concluded they were both fully involved in an assault on the victim which resulted in his death. The Appeal court also concluded that although in the retrial the deletion of the dog lead was evident, this did not lessen the overall violence of the attack. Due to the circumstances of the case and Mr Laurie’s record the sentence of 18 years cannot be said to be excessive the appeal court ruled and this was sustained. However, in relation to charge two the sentence for this was again reduced to one year imprisonment in line with the principle in Ferguson v HM Advocate 2010, namely a sentence following a retrial should not be greater than the sentence originally imposed. Therefore the appeal was part successful in relation to appellants sentence for the attempting the defeat the ends of justice charge.

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