HMA v Ryan Gibb and Cameron Laurie 2018

Mr Ryan Gibb and Mr Cameron Laurie have had their murder convictions quashed after the Appeal Court has ruled the Trial judge removed the option of a culpable homicide verdict from the jury in error. The appeal was allowed on the basis that there had been a ‘miscarriage of justice.’

The two men were found guilty in the High Court of Aberdeen in 2016 of murdering James Chadwick in August 2015. At the original Trial the accused both had a special defence of incrimination but neither gave evidence against his co accused. Mr Gibb was convicted of the murder unanimously and Laurie by a majority. The fiscal’s position was that a verdict of culpable homicide might be available to Mr Laurie, but this was not argued for by his defence. However, in the guidance to the jury the Trial judge withdrew the possibility of a verdict of culpable homicide in respect of either accused.

He stated that in light of the victims injures there was ‘no scope’ for this. The argument for the appeal was this was done in error. There was also an argument that the judge had not given directions in terms of concert which were “inadequate,” as he did not go in to detail about this and guide the jury.

Lord Justice Clerk said in delivering the appeal courts opinion: “It is beyond doubt that in certain circumstances a trial judge in a case of murder would be entitled to withdraw culpable homicide from the jury, might even have a duty to do so.

It is equally beyond doubt that great circumspection must be exercised in taking such a course, and it would only be justified if it could be said that on the evidence there was no basis upon which such a verdict could be returned.” It was decided in the above circumstances the Sheriff had materially erred in removing this verdict given the facts and circumstances of the case.