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HMA v Christopher Cook


Nov 3, 2023

At the High Court in Edinburgh today, Lord Weir sentenced Christopher Cook to life imprisonment for the murder of Jacqueline Kerr. Cook must serve a minimum of 20 years before being eligible for parole.

On sentencing, Lord Weir said:

"You have pleaded guilty by s.76 indictment to a single charge libelling the domestically aggravated murder of your former partner, Jacqueline Kerr, at her home in Sunnyside Road, Aberdeen, in January of this year.  At the time of her death, Miss Kerr was employed as a support worker for children with learning difficulties.  You were on bail from Aberdeen Sheriff Court.  The extensive agreed narrative, together with the photographs submitted to me at the time when your plea was recorded, reveal what can only have been a brutal and sustained assault upon her, with tragic and fatal consequences.

I should make it clear that, notwithstanding the sentencing disposal apparently recommended in the Criminal Justice Social Work Report, the crime of murder carries with it a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment.  I require nonetheless to fix a period, known as the punishment part of the sentence.  That does not represent the custodial term after which you will be released from custody.  Nor should it be understood as placing any kind of value on the life of Miss Kerr.  It represents the period of time which the court considers appropriate to satisfy the requirements for retribution and deterrence.  Whether, and if so when, you will be released from custody will, after the expiry of the punishment part, be a matter for the Parole Board for Scotland. 

In fixing the punishment part, I have taken into account information about your background and your attitude to this offence contained in the Criminal Justice Social Work Report.  In that respect, what you are recorded as having told the social worker about the limited extent of the violence you visited on Miss Kerr is, as you now accept, demonstrably at odds, not just with the material placed before the court on the last occasion, but also the terms of the charge to which you pleaded guilty.    

I have carefully considered the submissions tendered by Mr Anderson about your individual circumstances, your very limited record of previous convictions, and the extent to which the account you gave to the social worker may have been, to some degree, lost in translation.  Nothing obvious emerges from your hinterland to explain your behaviour at the material time.  For the avoidance of doubt, however, nothing can excuse the murderous assault you committed.  The terms of the Impact Statements submitted by members of Miss Kerr’s family are eloquent of the profound impact of her death upon them, and no sentence of this court can truly alleviate the pain they continue to bear from their loss.

In all the circumstances, I impose a sentence of life imprisonment.  Had you been convicted after trial, I would have fixed the punishment part of the sentence at 24 years, 18 months of which would have been attributable to the aggravation in terms of section 1 of the Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm (Scotland) Act 2016, and 6 months of which would have been attributable to the bail aggravation.  In recognition of your early plea, I will fix the punishment part at 20 years.  I will also backdate the sentence to the date of your remand on 18 January 2023."

3 November 2023