Thousands call for review after youth discharged in sex assault case

Thousands of people have signed a petition calling for a review of the decision to grant an absolute discharge to a student found guilty of sexual assault.

A statement from the Judicial Office for Scotland states first offender Christopher Daniel was “discharged absolutely” after he was found guilty at Dumbarton Sheriff Court.

Noting that Sheriff Gerard Sinclair had considered all the relevant factors in the case, the statement said: “In light of the evidence as to the immaturity of the accused, and the nature of the discussion during which he admitted his actions, the sheriff considered the offence to be the result of an entirely inappropriate curiosity of an emotionally naive teenager rather than for the purpose of sexual gratification.

“The accused had appeared both noticeably immature and socially awkward, features confirmed by other evidence in the case. It was fortunate that the complainer appeared to have suffered no injury or long lasting effects.”

It said any recorded conviction for the offence would have “serious consequences in terms of the accused`s future career” and any sentence would mean Daniel would “probably be unable to continue his university course”.

It concluded: “Considering all of these factors, the sheriff reached the conclusion that justice could be served in this case by taking the wholly exceptional decision not to pass sentence and to grant an absolute discharge.”

A petition set up calling for a review of the sheriff’s decision gathered thousands of signatures in a single day.

Marisa Keegan started the petition on Friday calling for Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf to review the case.

On the petition page, she wrote: “Our system is putting criminals’ careers before our children’s welfare.

“What kind of world do we live in that this is seen as an acceptable decision by the court?”

She added: “This decision is wrong. This sets an example for other sexual offenders and for sexual assault victims of what can happen if they come forward.”

By Saturday evening, more than 2,500 people had signed the petition.

Conservative MSP Liam Kerr raised the case at First Minister’s Questions on Thursday, telling Nicola Sturgeon the sheriff’s decision had “devastated” the victim’s family.

Ms Sturgeon said: “I absolutely understand the concerns that have been expressed about what has been reported about this sentence, but the sentencing decision in any criminal case is entirely a matter for the judge.

“The judiciary acts entirely independently on the basis of the facts and circumstances of individual cases. They will take into account a wide range of factors, including the age of the offender and any previous convictions.

“I understand the concerns, but we must protect the principle in this country that sentencing decisions are not a matter for politicians, however controversial and difficult they can be for the public. Sentencing decisions are rightly and properly matters for judges.”

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