Dumbarton Sheriff Court, Tory Justice spokesperson Liam Kerr and Dumbarton and Lomond MSP Jackie Baillie.
By Democrat reporter
The Lord Advocate has been asked to intervene after a teenage dental student who sexually assaulted a six-year-old girl was granted an absolute discharge.
Christopher Daniel, 18, was found guilty of the offence at Dumbarton last month but walked away after Sheriff Gerard Sinclair ruled he was “immature and socially awkward” and argued any conviction risked damaging his career prospects.
The Scottish Tories have now asked the Lord Advocate, James Wolffe QC, pictured below, to order a review into the case in the public interest, and reconsider the Crown Office’s decision not to appeal.
Daniel, who was 15-17 at the time, carried out the assaults when the girl was between six and eight.
His absolute discharge means he will not be on the sex offenders register nor have any criminal record.
Scottish Tory shadow justice secretary Liam Kerr called the case “deeply disturbing” and Dumbarton and Lomond MSP Jackie Baillie also criticised the way this matter was dealth with.
Liam Kerr said: “A young man has been convicted of repeatedly sexually assaulting a six year old girl, and yet has walked away with an unblemished record. That is profoundly concerning and the public outcry has been deafening.
“It is not for politicians to second guess a judge’s ruling, however, this is such a concerning case that I am compelled to ask for further clarity on this issue.
“Given the level of public disquiet and concern about this ruling, I have asked the Lord Advocate to provide further clarity on this disposal, consider a review in the public interest, and reconsider the Crown Office’s decision not to appeal the ruling in this case.
“I believe most people in Scotland would argue that such an appalling offence should carry with it a clear and unequivocal sanction.”
Sheriff Sinclair considered the assaults to be “the result of an entirely inappropriate curiosity of an emotionally naive teenager rather than for the purpose of sexual gratification”.
In a written ruling, he said: “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.”
He added: “During the trial [Daniel] presented as someone who, with appropriate support and guidance, could become a valuable contributor to society. The Sheriff considered it unlikely that he would ever appear in court as an accused again.
“Any recorded conviction for this offence would have serious consequences in terms of the accused’s future career.
“On the authorities, this was also a relevant factor in deciding how to deal with the case. Any sentence would mean that he would probably be unable to continue his university course.”
A Crown Office spokesman said: “Sentencing is a matter for the sheriff who acts independently on the basis of the facts and circumstances of the particular case.
“The Crown has a limited right of appeal against sentence. In order to appeal the law sets a high test. The sentence must not only be lenient, but it must be ‘unduly lenient’, i.e. outwith the reasonable range of sentences that could have been imposed by the court.
“Having given careful consideration of the full facts and circumstances of this case, Crown Counsel decided that this was not a case in which the high legal test was met.
“The reasons for this have been explained to the family and the Crown has offered them a meeting to answer any further questions they may have.”