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Family 'failed by justice' after child abuser walks free

Christopher Daniel, 18, has no criminal record despite being found guilty of sex abuse.

By Russell Findlay

The dad of a young girl sexually abused by a teenage dental student has accused Scotland's justice system of failing on every count.

Christopher Daniel, 18, was found guilty of numerous sexual assaults on the girl over a two-year period, starting when she was six and he was 15.

But there was criticism of Sheriff Gerard Sinclair's decision to give Daniel an 'absolute discharge' - meaning he has no criminal conviction and is not on the sex offenders register.

The girl's family have now written to Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC to ask that he reconsider the Crown Office's decision to abandon an appeal against the sentence.

They are also set to meet Crown Office prosecutors this week to discuss the case.

Speaking publicly for the first time, the dad said: "The justice system has failed on every count. The law and the sheriff have a duty to protect the public. I think it's an outrageous decision."

There has been public and political backlash since STV News first reported the case in January.

The girl's dad has vowed to do everything he can to appeal the sentence both for his daughter and other children.

He said: "I think in years to come we'd like to say to our daughter 'we did everything in our power to get him [Daniel] on to the sex offenders register'.

Christopher Daniel should be on the sex offenders register, the girl's dad says.
Christopher Daniel should be on the sex offenders register, the girl's dad says. STV

"As a parent you've got a job to try and protect your children.

"If I told other parents that this person has been accused of this, do you think they would let their children be around him? Absolutely not.

"Yet the verdict from the sheriff is that he's eligible to go and work with children after being found guilty of sexual assault on a minor. I find it distressing."

Last week the Judicial Office for Scotland released the sheriff's reasons for his "wholly exceptional" decision.

He claimed that the assaults were due to "inappropriate curiosity of an emotionally naive teenager" and not "sexual gratification" - even though he had found Daniel guilty of sexual assault.

The sheriff said the girl did not appear to have suffered "any long-lasting effects" despite the family not being asked how she was.

He also said any conviction "would have serious consequences" for Daniel's planned dental career. This prompted criticism that too much importance was placed on his middle-class background and education.

https://stv.tv/news/west-central/1435283-lawyer-showed-film-of-child-sex-abuse-victim-playing/ | default

The father branded the sheriff's reasons "pathetic", adding: "It's outrageous when you've got a young girl and it has clearly affected her mind.

"Mentally and physically he has put her through a tough time in the early stages of her life. He's not a young boy, he should be accountable for his actions.

"I think the age of both parties has outraged the general public and that it's gone on for so long. This happened multiple times, this was not a one off."

Sandy Brindley, chief executive of Rape Crisis Scotland, said: "I think it is very hard to see any circumstance where an absolute discharge is an appropriate response to the repeated sexual assault of a young girl.

"To me what's noticeable in this case is the really sharp gap between the sheriff's perception of what the family want and how the girl is and the family who are saying 'no-one has ever asked us how our daughter is'."

The family hope to persuade the Crown to resurrect its abandoned appeal - but realise there is little else they can do.

The dad added: "We notified the police, we went to court, we got a guilty verdict. We will keep fighting to take it as far as we can do but ultimately it's not in our hands."

Lord Advocate 'should review case'

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and justice secretary Humza Yousaf have said it's vital that sentencing is a matter for judges - not politicians.

Scottish Conservative shadow justice secretary Liam Kerr agrees but has urged the Lord Advocate to review the case.

He said: "One cannot, as I have, speak at length to the family in this case and not come off and think something hasn't worked here.

"Something needs to be looked at, just to reassure the public that everything's been done properly.

"To that end I've written to the Lord Advocate today, just asking him to look again at this case, conduct his own review, and make sure that everything's been done appropriately and also perhaps look at the Crown's decision not to appeal this case and see whether he would come to a different view of that."

The Crown Office declined to comment.

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