Judges Refuse Angus Sinclair Sentence Appeal

24 March 2016, 14:54

Serial killer Angus Sinclair has failed in a bid to have his sentence reduced for the murders of two teenage girls in the 1970s.

Sinclair, 70, was locked up for life and told to serve at least 37 years - the longest minimum jail term ever imposed in a Scottish court - after he was convicted in 2014 of raping and murdering Christine Eadie and Helen Scott.

The 17-year-olds were brutally killed after a night-out at Edinburgh's World's End pub in October 1977, with their bodies discovered the following day in East Lothian.

He was found guilty of the crimes after a five-week trial and, on sentencing, judge Lord Matthews said Sinclair was a "dangerous predator, who is capable of sinking to the depths of depravity''.

The conviction brought to a conclusion one of Scotland's most infamous unsolved cases and marked the first prosecution since changes to the country's double jeopardy law.

The legal change meant Sinclair, who has been in prison since the 1980s, could be retried after the court case against him collapsed seven years previously.

The judge ordered him to spend a minimum of 37 years in jail - the same number of years that the families of the girls had waited for justice.

Last year, Sinclair dropped an appeal against the conviction but continued in a bid to have the term reduced, arguing it was "excessive''.

A hearing was held in November but judges have now refused the appeal, meaning the punishment part of Sinclair's sentence will stand.

Among the submissions from Sinclair's legal team was the question of whether 37 years was "necessary, appropriate and fell within the judge's discretion''.

They also argued about whether or not some of his earlier convictions should have been taken into account in determining the punishment part of the sentence as they were events which came after the 1977 murders.

Lady Paton, Lady Clark and Lord Malcolm delivered their opinion in a written judgment published on Thursday.

They said: "We do not accept that the sentencing judge selected 37 years because that represented the length of time which had passed since the commission of the murders.

"As the sentencing judge explains, he had concluded at the outset that a punishment part 'in the high 30s' should be imposed. That was his assessment of the gravity of the case.

"As he puts it, it was only 'coincidentally' that the period selected mirrored the passage of time since the murders. In the result we are not persuaded that there is any merit in this argument.''

They also rejected the arguments relating to his criminal record and refused the appeal.

Christine and Helen were targeted by Sinclair and his brother-in-law Gordon Hamilton, now dead, on a night-out at the World's End pub on October 15 1977.

Their bodies were discovered the following day, having been dumped in remote locations. They had been raped, strangled and bound with their underwear.

Sinclair denied the charges and had claimed the girls consented to sex with him and pointed the finger at Hamilton, who died in 1996.

However, DNA analysis proved Sinclair had touched the ligatures used to tie the girls up.

Forensic scientists told how around 125 stains on the pieces of clothing used to restrain the girls had been examined during at least two years of meticulous testing.

Jurors, who took less than two-and-a-half hours to find Sinclair guilty of the 1977 crimes, were unaware the violent offender had already spent more than half of his life in prison.

He was just 16 when he strangled a seven-year-old girl to death in Glasgow in 1961 and in 1982 he was convicted of a string of sex attacks on young girls, including rape.

While still in prison, he was given a life sentence in 2001 for the murder of 17-year-old Mary Gallacher, who was raped and stabbed in Glasgow in 1978.

When he was sentenced at the High Court in Livingston for the World's End murders, the judge said the words "evil'' and "monster'' seemed inadequate for Sinclair.

Speaking after the ruling, a Crown Office spokesman said: "We note the decision of the appeal court.

"This brings to an end the long wait for justice for the families of Helen and Christine.

"This was made possible by the hard work and dedication of all senior investigation officers, police officers, procurators fiscal, forensic scientists, police surgeons, forensic pathologists, forensic soil scientists, toxicologists and other witnesses who willingly gave their time and expertise to bring Angus Sinclair to justice.''