SENTENCING STATEMENTS

 

A judge may decide to publish a statement after passing sentence on an offender in cases where there is particular public interest; where a case has legal significance; or where providing the reasons for the decision might assist public understanding.

Please note that statements may include graphic details of offences when it is necessary to fully explain the reasons behind a sentencing decision.  

Follow us if you wish to receive alerts as soon as statements are published. 

Once charges are spent, any statement in relation to them is removed. Statements published before the launch of the website may be available on request. Please email judicialcomms@scotcourts.gov.uk

The independence of the judiciary is essential to safeguard people’s rights under law - enabling judges to make decisions impartially based solely on evidence and law, without interference or influence from the government or politicians.

When deciding a sentence, a judge must deal with the offence that the offender has been convicted of, taking into account the unique circumstances of each particular case. The judge will carefully consider the facts that are presented to the Court by both the prosecution and by the defence.

For more information about how judges decide sentences; what sentences are available; and matters such as temporary release, see the independent Scottish Sentencing Council website.

Read more about victims of crime and sentencing.

Read more about civil judgments.

HMA v Stefan McCormack

 

Sep 1, 2021

At the High Court at Glasgow today, Lord Fairley sentenced Stefan McCormack to imprisonment for life after the offender was found guilty of murdering Rafal Sieja.

 

The punishment part was set at 16 years. This is the period which the offender must spend in prison in full before he can apply to the Parole Board for Scotland to consider release on licence.

On sentencing Lord Fairley made the following statement in Court:

“Stefan McCormack, you were convicted by a jury of the murder of Rafal Sieja, a man who, prior to the events of 5 July 2019, was barely known to you. 

By your actions, you deprived Mr Sieja and his family of what would probably have been many more years of his life. Nothing that I can do or say in court today can lessen the grief and anguish that his family must feel for their loss of him, and in contemplating the suffering that he must have endured in the period between your assault upon him and his death around three weeks later. 

On the evening of 5 July 2019 Mr Sieja was simply enjoying a night out in a pub in Lockerbie. You, having apparently been motivated by unsubstantiated gossip that you had heard about him, confronted him in the toilet area of the pub and then attacked him with such violence that he was left with multiple sites of blunt force injury to his head and a severe rotational brain injury. You then left him in the toilets, severely injured, where he was found by others later that night. After being taken to hospital, Mr Sieja was placed on life support and over the following days and weeks doctors made determined efforts to save his life. After three weeks, however, Mr Sieja had made no significant recovery due to the severity of the injury to his brain. He died on 27 July 2019 following consultation between doctors and his family about a decision to remove life-support. Mr Sieja was 33 years old when he died – the same age that you are now.

The evidence from the post mortem examination of Mr Sieja’s brain showed a severe diffuse traumatic axonal injury most typically seen in road traffic accidents and in falls from a height.

In convicting you, the jury found that your assault on Mr Sieja on the night of 5 July 2019 was so wickedly reckless as to its consequences as to amount to murder. The jury also plainly rejected your implausible and self-serving explanation of the incident. That was entirely unsurprising having regard to the substantial body of evidence presented by the Crown which, when viewed as a whole, presented a compelling circumstantial case that you had indeed attacked Mr Sieja in a short but extremely violent assault which was objectively likely to cause death, and ultimately did so.

The criminal justice social worker who interviewed you following your conviction noted that at  no stage during the interview did you express any empathy towards Mr Sieja or any regret at his death.

You have a list of twenty previous convictions, mainly spanning the period from 2004 to 2012, but with two convictions in 2019 and 2020 for breaching special conditions of bail in relation to this matter. All of those other matters were prosecuted at summary level. You have convictions for the unlawful possession of weapons, for vandalism and disorder, for theft by housebreaking, for culpable and reckless conduct and for violence both to the police and to a domestic partner.

As you have already been told, the sentence for murder is fixed by law, and I therefore sentence you today to imprisonment for life.

I must also, however, fix the punishment part of your sentence, being the period which you must spend in prison in full before you can apply to the Parole Board for Scotland for release on licence. You should not assume that you will automatically be released at the end of that period. You will be released only when it is considered that it is no longer necessary for the protection of the public that you continue to be confined in prison.

In fixing the punishment part, I have considered carefully what has been said on your behalf today by your senior counsel, all that has been written in the report by the social worker, and everything said about you in the various written testimonials from family members, employers and others that have, through your lawyers, been provided to me.

I accept that when you went out on the evening of 5 July 2019, you did not plan to harm Mr Sieja. I also accept that the whole incident cannot have lasted for any more than 1 minute and 46 seconds. I also take account, however, of the extreme level of violence that you must have used during that short period such as to cause the catastrophic injuries to Mr Sieja that ultimately ended his life.

In all of the circumstances, I consider that the appropriate punishment part in your case should be one of 16 years. I shall take into account the time that you have spent in custody since your conviction by backdating the start of your sentence to 4 August 2021.” 

1 September 2021