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HMA v James Cunningham


Mar 2, 2023

At the High Court in Livingston, Judge Susan Craig imposed an extended sentence of 16 years on James Cunningham after the offender was convicted of multiple rapes, serious physical assaults and sexual assaults over a twenty three year period.

The extended sentence comprises a custodial term of 12 years and an extension period of 4 years.

On sentencing Judge Susan Craig made the following statement in court:

"You were found guilty by a jury after trial of charges including multiple rapes of three separate women, as well as serious physical assaults and sexual assaults of others, over a twenty three year period. It is clear from the jury’s verdicts – which found you guilty unanimously on all but one charge, and guilty by a majority of the remaining charge - that they were satisfied you had conducted years of abusive, manipulative and controlling behaviour of your victims whose lives continue to be blighted by your appalling treatment of them.

The evidence was that you groomed young vulnerable females, placing yourself in a position of power over them, and then committed numerous sexual and physical offences of the most serious kind. When they tried to escape from you, you used that power to force them back and continued to abuse them. When, in time, they were able to escape from your influence you would immediately replace them with another young victim who you would again subject to years of sexual and physical abuse.

Your controlling and abusive behaviour wasn’t confined to your sexual relationships but extended to those over whom you had power. You made their lives a misery by controlling what they could and couldn’t do and imposing random rules of behaviour. If they did not behave according to your rules you would use physical and humiliating punishments. Their childhoods were blighted by your appalling treatment. That they have been able to make successful lives as adults is a testament to their resilience in spite of, not because of, what you did.

A criminal justice social work report was prepared for this morning’s sentencing hearing.  It make for grim reading. It describes your offending as being of the most serious nature involving the perpetration of sexual and violent abuse against intimate partners, the physical abuse of children, and sexual abuse against two other children. It reported that as the offences spanned a period of some twenty-three years it strongly indicated entrenched patterns of abusive behaviour on your part and that a significant level of planning would have been involved in respect of these offences. It reports that you continue to maintain your innocence in respect of the sexual matters and that you display a tendency to minimise the violent offences, attributing significant blame to your victims.

Most troubling the report assesses you as currently posing an unmanageable risk of further analogous re-offending in the community setting and that you are assessed as posing a very significant risk of committing further violent and sexual offences against females of all ages and violent offending specifically where associated children are involved.

I have read the victim impact statement given by one of your victims who describes your offending as having a profound emotional and psychological impact on her.

Because of the gravity of the crimes you have committed a custodial sentence is the only appropriate disposal in your case.

Given the terms of the report, which highlights your overall rejection of responsibility for involvement in sexual and physically harmful behaviour, your lack of insight and empathy, and the assessed risk of serious harm you potentially present, I intend to follow the recommendation of imposing a sentence to include a lengthy period of post-custody supervision.

I am satisfied that the normal period of licence to which you would be subject following your release from a custodial sentence would not be adequate to protect the public from the risk of serious harm that you present

In relation to charges 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 8, I impose a cumulo extended sentence of 16 years comprising the custodial term of 12 years and an extension period of 4 years, backdated to 3 February 2023 when you were first remanded in custody.

In relation to charges 7 and 9 I impose sentences of 4 years in respect of each charge, to be served concurrently with the cumulo sentences on the other charges.

You will remain subject to the notification requirements applicable to sex offenders for an indefinite period, and your name will be added to the lists of persons deemed unsuitable to work with vulnerable groups.

In addition, I impose a lifetime NHO in respect of the victim in charges 1  that for the remainder of your life you are not to approach or contact or attempt to approach or contact that victim."