Paige Doherty's Murderer Has Sentence Cut

17 February 2017, 11:10 | Updated: 17 February 2017, 11:51

Paige Doherty John Leatham

A shop owner who murdered schoolgirl Paige Doherty in a frenzied knife attack has had his sentence reduced by four years.

John Leathem admitted killing the 15-year-old when she stopped for a breakfast roll at his Delicious Deli in Clydebank, West Dunbartonshire, on March 19 last year.

He was given a mandatory life sentence at the High Court in Glasgow in October and ordered to spend at least 27 years behind bars, but launched an appeal against the minimum jail term later that month.

Senior judges at the Appeal Court in Edinburgh have now quashed the original punishment and imposed a 23-year sentence.

The opinion of the court, delivered by Lord Turnbull, reiterated that Leathem had committed a "most appalling murder'' but said other circumstances needed to be given "proper weight''.

At a hearing in December, Leathem's lawyer Iain Duguid QC said the punishment part of his client's sentence was higher than other child murder cases and ''represents a significant increase in the tariff'' for such offences.

He compared the sentence handed down in other cases such as the 23 years given to Alexander Pacteau for the murder of Irish student Karen Buckley.

Ruling on Leathem's appeal, the judges said: "The appellant was a family man of previous good character who had not offended before and who had expressed remorse.

"The murder was not premeditated.

"The extent of his efforts to defeat the ends of justice can be measured against certain of the conduct which took place in some of the other cases referred to above.

"When these circumstances are all taken account of, we think it can be said that the length of the punishment part selected in this case was inconsistent with current sentencing practice and was excessive.''

The opinion ended: "For the reasons which we have set out above, we shall quash the punishment part imposed in this case and substitute therefor a period of 23 years.''

Leathem, 32, stabbed the defenceless teenager 61 times and inflicted a total of more than 140 injuries in the attack.

Despite claims he was in ''a panic'', he cleaned up his crime and dumped the 15-year-old's body in bushes near Great Western Road two days later.

When making the case for the appeal, Mr Duguid said: ''Nothing I say is intended to diminish the seriousness of the offence ... it is simply a matter of law.''

Comparing the sentence to that of Pacteau, who killed Ms Buckley and tried to dispose of her body in a barrel of chemicals, Mr Duguid said his client's actions were ''no comparison''.

He told Lady Dorrian, Lord Bracadale and Lord Turnbull: ''He (Leathem) never tried to dismember or destroy this girl's body.

''He took it to a deposition site that, he indicated, he thought it would quickly be discovered. It is no comparison to the actions of Pacteau.''

Judge Lady Rae originally imposed a 30-year murder sentence, reduced by three years to reflect his guilty plea, and a concurrent period of six years on a second charge of attempting to pervert the course of justice.

The appeal judges said: "In our opinion, the appropriate starting point for the punishment part selected in respect of charge one ought to have been a period of 25 years.

"The appropriate sentence on charge two ought to have been one of three years' imprisonment to run concurrently with the life sentence imposed.

"In these circumstances it would have been appropriate to enhance the punishment part by a further period of one year to a total of 26 years.

"Thereafter, the question of reflecting the utilitarian value of the plea by way of sentencing discount arises.

"In light of the history of case preparation as given to us by the advocate depute, we consider that the utilitarian value of the plea merits no more than a discount of three years.

"This would result in an overall punishment part of 23 years.''

Paige's mother, Pamela Munro, last year described the appeal as "cruel''.