A teenager in Scotland began repeatedly sexually assaulting a girl from ages 6 to 8, starting when he was 15. The perpetrator, now 18, was found guilty in December of the crimes — but will face no punishment.
“How is that justice?” the girl’s mother asked STV, which did not name the family members to protect their identities. “How does this teach anything to anybody that’s committing this crime?”
The perpetrator won’t face punishment because he was given an “absolute discharge” by a Dumbarton court. According to Scottish law, an absolute discharge may be granted if the person convicted had previously demonstrated good character or was very young or very old. Because of the ruling, the 18-year-old dental student will not appear on a sex-offender registry and his guilty verdict will not be recorded as a conviction.
The assailant was the son of a family friend, and the girl eventually confided in her parents after two years of abuse. After learning what happened to her, they called the police.
“This won’t be something for her that goes away,” the victim’s mother told Scottish outlet STV News.
The victim’s family also told STV they think the perpetrator’s middle-class background and career prospects played a role in the decision.
(It is generally The Washington Post’s policy not to identify those convicted of crimes committed as minors.)
The girl’s family had hoped to appeal the court’s decision to the Crown Office, Scotland’s prosecution service. The office can appeal “unduly lenient” sentences that fall outside what a judge could have reasonably imposed, though the Scottish appeals court has set a high legal bar for doing so. The office ultimately declined to take on the case after a report submitted by the judge, Gerard Sinclair, that was not published or made available to the victim’s family, according to STV.
“Following full and careful consideration to all the facts and circumstances, Crown Counsel instructed that there should be no appeal against sentence in this case,” a spokesman for the Crown Office told The Post in a statement. “The reasons for this have been explained to the family. We would be happy to offer the family a meeting to answer any further questions they may have.”
The family hopes to write to Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC, who leads the office, asking him to reconsider, STV reported.
The law firm representing the assailant did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
But a representative told the Times, a British newspaper, that Sinclair had “imposed an absolute discharge after a careful assessment of all the evidence and the surrounding circumstances. Within this report, the [judge] reached the conclusion that justice could be served by taking what he called a ‘wholly exceptional’ decision.”
Not all Scottish officials are pleased with the outcome.
“I have spoken to the family and the facts of this case are deeply troubling and deeply affecting,” Scotland’s Conservative shadow justice secretary, Liam Kerr, told The Post in a statement.
“It’s certainly a surprising sentence from my point of view,” he said. “I think it would certainly help in this case and in many others if there was greater understanding about why the decisions are taken.”
The ordeal has left the girl and her family reeling — and lacking faith in the justice system.