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HMA v John Young


May 14, 2024

At the High Court in Edinburgh today, Lady Haldane imposed a life sentence on John Young after he pled guilty to the murder of James Hynes. Young must serve a minimum punishment period of 15 years before he can be considered for release.

On sentencing, Lady Haldane told Young:

"You appeared before me on 9th April 2024 at which time you tendered a plea of guilty to the murder of James Hynes, his death following upon a murderous assault by you on 21st July 2023.

It is agreed that you and Mr Hynes were at one time friends, although you had fallen out some time before these events.  You attended at Mr Hynes home shortly before midnight on 21st July in an intoxicated state, and banged loudly on the window, which caused Mr Hynes to come out of the property.  You and Mr Hynes then engaged in a verbal and physical altercation and although Mr Hynes had brought a hammer with him, you at some stage wrestled that from him and indeed at one point during the altercation you walked away, leaving Mr Hynes on the ground.  Tragically, you did not leave matters there but came back and inflicted 9 or 10 blows with the hammer to Mr Hynes as he lay on the ground, telling him you were going to kill him.  You did not achieve that aim immediately, but Mr Hynes did succumb to his injuries about a month later.  Post mortem results disclosed at least 5 blows with a heavy implement to Mr Hynes head and face.

You have a lengthy record of previous convictions including two for violence in respect of which you received custodial sentences.

I have had the benefit of a Criminal Justice Social Work Report and a careful and very helpful submission from Ms McCall on your behalf.

I have taken into account all that is said in the Criminal Justice Social Work Report and all that has been said to me by Ms McCall.  In particular, I take account of the remorse you have expressed, and your willingness to work towards being a productive member of society when you are eventually released.  There will be opportunities during your time in custody to work towards that aim, and I strongly encourage you to take advantage of any such opportunities that are offered.

I have also taken account of the medical report provided to me by Ms McCall.  However as the author properly concedes, although the range of significant adverse experiences detailed therein may go some way to explaining your actions in adult life, they cannot provide a justification for them.

The fact remains that you carried out a brutal attack with a hammer upon a man who was by that stage lying on the ground, which resulted in his death.  Not only have you taken his life, but you have deprived his family of a much loved father, partner and grandfather, as is clear from the Victim Impact Statement with which I have been provided. Nothing I say or do today can alter that tragic reality or truly reflect the loss that his family have suffered.

The sentence for murder is set by law, and is imprisonment for life. That is the sentence I impose on you today. I must also fix a period of time, known as the punishment part of your sentence. That is the minimum period that you must serve before you are eligible to be considered for release on life-long licence.  Having regard to all of the information before me, had I been sentencing you after trial, I would have imposed a punishment part of 18 years.  I take account of the fact that you pled guilty at the earliest opportunity, and so I will reduce that punishment part to 15 years. 

You should understand that in fixing the punishment part the court is not in any sense fixing the time when you will be released.  Instead the court is fixing the number of years which must be served by you before you can apply for release.  The punishment part does not take into account the need for public protection.  That is taken into account if and when you apply in due course for your release.  Whether or not you are ever released will therefore be for others to determine in the future; and even if you are released you will be subject to the conditions of a licence for the rest of your life and liable to be recalled to prison if you break any of the conditions.  What the punishment part does do is to reflect the sentencing aims of retribution and deterrence. 

This sentence will run from 24th July 2023 when you were first remanded in custody."

14 May 2024