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Mum's anger as court explains why child abuser walked free

Christopher Daniel, 18, has no criminal record despite being found guilty of assaulting girl.

Christopher Daniel and Sheriff Gerard Sinclair
Christopher Daniel and Sheriff Gerard Sinclair

By Russell Findlay

A mum whose daughter was sexually assaulted by a student has reacted with anger after a sheriff's reasons for giving the abuser an 'absolute discharge' were revealed.

Sheriff Gerard Sinclair found Christopher Daniel, 18, guilty of sexually assaulting a girl on numerous occasions when she was aged between six and eight.

But the "wholly exceptional" sentence means the teenage dental student does not have a criminal record and was not put on the sex offenders register.

Following a series of STV News reports, the Judicial Office for Scotland published a statement on Thursday detailing the sheriff's reasons.

But the victims's family are angry and confused by the reasons given - accusing the sheriff of making assumptions and getting facts wrong.

The statement said: "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."

'I am absolutely gobsmacked by this. How can he possibly know this? It also seems to be at odds with the charge which was of sexual assault'
Girl's mum

The girl's mum said: "I am absolutely gobsmacked by this. How can he possibly know this? It also seems to be at odds with the charge which was of sexual assault.

"He also says that my daughter appears not to have suffered any 'long-lasting effects'. Again, how can he possibly know this? No-one has asked me at any point how my daughter is."

Since Daniel's trial at Dumbarton Sheriff Court last month, the family had been unable to obtain the sheriff's reasons.

The release of the statement is highly unusual - but the Judicial Office for Scotland did not warn the victim's family that it was happening.

The sheriff says his sentence was based on the attacker's immaturity, social awkwardness and the fact his level of offending did not escalate.

He also placed importance on the damage that a conviction could do to Daniel's career.

The statement read: "As to the circumstances of the offence, the sheriff considered that the actions, occurring on more than one occasion could not be classed as spontaneous.

"However, there had been no attempt to escalate the nature of the offending.

"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.

'For them to release this without even telling us is appalling but so much of what is in the document is troubling'
Girl's mum

"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.

"Any sentence would mean that he would probably be unable to continue his university course."

The sheriff also said he took the decision because the family "held no ill will" against Daniel and were not "seeking any form of retribution".

The girl's mum said: "For them to release this without even telling us is appalling but so much of what is in the document is troubling.

"The sheriff says that we are not seeking retribution. We don't want him locked up but I have always said he should be put on the sex offenders register.

"It's almost suggesting that I chose this sentence.

"It should be up to the sheriff to do the right thing, which is to record it as a criminal conviction at the very least.

"This appears to be shifting the blame on us. It's outrageous.

"As we suspected, the sheriff also confirms that his career was deemed to be more important. So if he had not done as well in his exams at school he would have been put on the sex offenders register?

"I think people will be appalled. We asked for the reasons but we're never told. We've had nothing."

Scottish Conservative shadow justice spokesman Liam Kerr raised the case at First Minister's Questions on Thursday.

He asked if she agreed that serious sexual offences should be "punished severely" and that if there should be "more transparency around sentencing such as this".

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon replied that it is an important principle that sentencing is a matter for judges, not politicians, 'however controversial or difficult they may be for the public".

'For the family not to have been told this information was being released is also symptomatic of how complainers can feel left on the margins'
Sandy Brindley of Rape Crisis Scotland

Responding to the importance the sheriff places on Daniel's career, Sandy Brindley of Rape Crisis Scotland said: "It can be really frustrating for victims of sexual offences when the criminal justice system appears to place too much emphasis on what the impact will be on the offender."

She added: "For the family not to have been told this information was being released is also symptomatic of how complainers can feel left on the margins.

"While a case affects them more than anyone they are often the last to know what is going on."

A spokesman for Beltrami & Co said: "Our client's family appreciate the genuine sensitivity of this issue and have no wish to cause further upset to the victim's family.

"Christopher is however their teenage son and they wish to protect him.

"The statement by Judiciary Scotland today has disclosed confidential medical information about him.

"Over the past few days he has received a number of serious threats on social media.

"These have been reported to Police Scotland.

"The family have engaged extensively with Social Services since July, including actively seeking and attending counselling services.

"The statement today also discloses into the public domain further details about the case which ultimately could lead to identification of the victim.

"Beltrami & Co ask that the age and vulnerability of those involved in this case is considered by all who wish to comment."

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