Murder of Relatives or Friends

Frequently asked questions

What does the Law say about murder?

Murder is the name given by law to crimes in which one person kills another person. This crime is punishable with a life sentence. This can mean the offender will spend the rest of their life in prison, but often it means they will spend a certain period (decided by the judge) in prison before becoming eligible for parole. Parole is the conditional early release of an offender, who is then monitored and must obey certain rules and conditions. The specific minimum sentence an individual prisoner convicted of murder must serve before becoming eligible for release on parole is individually set by the judge, and can range from 15 years to 35 years. There is no maximum sentence a life-sentence prisoner must serve in prison. This means it is possible for some prisoners to remain in prison until their death (for example, if they are considered too dangerous too release from prison)

The law in Scotland also distinguishes between two main categories of murder:

  • There's murder, which is the unlawful killing of a person by another. Murder includes cases where the offender acted with the intention of killing the victim. It also includes cases where the offender acted in a “wickedly reckless” way which caused the death of the victim, meaning the offender did not intend to kill the victim, but did intended to cause them serious harm. Wicked recklessness will normally be decided based on the circumstances of the offender’s actions, e.g. the severity of injuries, or use of a weapon.
  • There is also culpable homicide, where the offender caused the death of the victim through wrongful conduct, but where they had no intention to kill and their behaviour is not considered to have constituted 'wicked recklessness'. It may also be considered culpable homicide where the accused is found to be of "diminished responsibility" (the offender is not considered fully responsible for causing the death of the victim, for example because the offender is suffering from mental illness), or if the offender was provoked (the behaviour or words of the victim caused the offender to lose his/her self control, for example the victim was taunting the offender).

Can murder be committed by someone who knew the victim?

Yes, murder can be committed by a person who knew the victim (by family, friends, (ex)boyfriend, (ex)girlfriend, neighbours, for example), but it can also by committed by strangers.

Can I ask Victim Support Scotland for help if someone close was a victim of murder?

Yes. Victim Support Scotland supports all victims of crime and also their relatives and friends. Victim Support Scotland can inform and support you according to your needs. If you feel you need support or just to talk to someone, please contact us. For more information about where we are and how you can contact us go to How and where can I get support?.