Calls for legal review after student who repeatedly assaulted six-year-old girl walks free from court

Calls have been made for a Scottish Law Commission Review after a teenage found guilty of repeated assault walked free from court with no criminal record.

18-year-old Glasgow dental student Christopher Daniel has walked free from court after attacking a six-year-old girl for more than two years. Christopher was found guilty of numerous counts of assault between the ages of 15 and 17, but was given an 'absolute discharge' by Sheriff Gerard Sinclair. If you don't know what this means, it is a type of sentence where absolutely no punishment is imposed and overrides the court's guilty verdict, thus resulting in a non-conviction. The Crown Office have not pursued an appeal against the sentence.

As a result of this Christopher will not be placed on the Sex Offenders' Register, despite being convicted of repeated sexual assault against a minor. This has provoked demands from various Scottish politicians who believe the Scottish Legal System has failed Daniel's young victim.

Liam Kerr, the Scottish Conservative shadow Justice Secretary, stated "when a convicted child abuser walks free from Court with no punishment, not even a criminal record, the system has failed." Kerr described the verdict as "utterly devastating for the victim and her family," but insisted on the need to ensure no one else is treated in this "appalling way." He has asked his counterpart in government Humza Yousaf for a Scottish Law Commission review in order to ensure that the test of undue leniency remains "fit for purpose".

The verdict was reached at Dumbarton Sheriff Court following a three-day trial. Reasons for the decision to grant the absolute discharge include sheriff Gerard Sinclair's perception that the teenager acted out of 'emotional naivety.' He also stated that the victim "appeared to have suffered no injury or long-lasting effects". The teenager had no prior criminal record. However, an investigation launched by STV found that the victim's family believed the abuser was set free because of his middle-class background, strong educational attainment and career prospects as a dentist.

After the 3-day trial concluded, a Judicial Office for Scotland stated that if the accused was indeed prosecuted to the full extent then it would cause severe damage to Daniel's future endeavours including his education and career. This has provoked public outrage, with more than 44,000 people signing a petition led by Marisa Keegan to review the court decision. Keegan stated: "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?”

The victim's mother has made an emotional statement in which she claimed that no justice has been served and that the Legal System has failed to protect her child by not putting Daniel on the Sex Offenders Register.

In response, a Scottish Government spokesperson has issued a statement claiming the Scottish government has supported agencies in taking action against those who commit sexual offences, strengthened relevant criminal laws and increased support to victims organisations to help more people come forward to report their experiences.

The Cabinet Secretary have stated that the Scottish government will raise the issue in future discussions with the Scottish Law Commission to ensure protection for Scottish children.

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