Murder is the most serious crime in the law of Scotland. Murder is constituted by the destruction of life, whether it be wilful or through an act displaying such wicked recklessness as to demonstrate a complete disregard for the consequences. Essentially what the prosecution need to prove is either that an accused intended to kill or did not care whether the deceased lived or died.
Murder carries a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment. The minimum period that a person convicted of murder must serve before being eligible for parole is pronounced by the court at the time of sentence.
Murder trials are exceptionally complex. Murder trials only take place in the High Court of Justiciary and always involve complex medical evidence. Prosecutions often hinge on circumstantial evidence and how such evidence is interpreted by the jury. As such these trials are conducted only by especially experienced advocates or solicitor-advocates known as Queen’s Counsel.
Depending on the evidence led at trial or otherwise it is possible for the crime of murder to be reduced to the lesser crime of culpable homicide (known as manslaughter in England). This verdict may be returned where the jury is satisfied that the actions of the accused caused the death of the deceased but that he did not mean to kill or was not wickedly reckless. Proof that an accused suffered from an abnormality of mind affecting his action at the time of the alleged incident can also reduce a charge of murder to culpable homicide.