Legal process: Sentencing in murder case televised for the first time

Legal process: Sentencing in murder case televised for the first time

A Scottish court has for the first time live broadcast the words of a judge passing down a life sentence in a murder case.

The case concerned the murder of 38-year-old Suzanne Pilley, a popular bookkeeper who disappeared on 4 May 2010. She was last seen walking off a bus and popping into a Sainsbury’s supermarket on Princes Street in Edinburgh, but she never made it to her desk that day. She has never been seen since and her body has never been recovered.

The accused in the case was David Gilroy, a 49-year-old married Edinburgh man who it is thought conducted an affair will Ms Pilley.

The prosecution in the case allege that it was the ending of the affair by Ms Pilley which prompted him to kill her. They claim that he killed her in his basement on Thistle Street, and then drove more than 100 miles the next day to bury her body in the forests in Argyll.

After being found guilty, the Scottish High Court invited television cameras in to broadcast the moment when sentence was passed by the judge, Lord Bracadale.

Opponents have argued that court television should be resisted, claiming that it may damage the administration of justice by encouraging witnesses, lawyers and judges to act up to the camera.

To avoid potential dramatisation, the court permitted only one camera and it was fixed on the judge throughout, so that the reaction of the accused and the public in the gallery remained unseen.

In sentencing, the judge described how Ms Pilley was entering a new phase of her life before she disappeared.

“You murdered her and disposed of her body,” said the judge. “It seems you are the only person who knows where her body is. I hope that a day will come in your life when you feel able to disclose that information and that might bring some comfort to her bereft family.”

He also acknowledged that Mr Gilroy was of previous good character, and that he believed the murder was not premeditated. However, he also identified that he set about covering up his tracks with “chilling calmness and calculation”.

Murder in Scotland, as in England, carries a mandatory life sentence, but the judge must also set a minimum tariff which must be served. In this case Lord Bracadale set it at 18 years.

This is not the first time a camera has been allowed in a Scottish court. In 1996 Lord Ross invited BBC Scotland to film the sentencing of two armed robbers. Cameras were also allowed into court to see the appeal of the Lockerbie bombers in the Netherlands.

Related links:
Read more on the story (The Independent)

How sentencing is worked out (FindLaw)

If you cannot find what you are looking for on please let us know by contacting us at:
Furthermore, please be aware that while we attempt to ensure all our information is as up-to-date and relevant as possible occasionally some our articles may no longer be accurate.