Child rapist’s ‘unduly lenient’ sentence prison increased following Crown appeal

Lord Brodie
Lord Brodie

A paedophile who was jailed for six years after being found guilty of a series of historic sexual offences has had his custodial term increased following an appeal by the Crown on the grounds of “undue leniency”.

Gordon Collins, 59, who was convicted of a charge of common law rape and a further five charges of indecent behaviour towards girls aged between 12 and 16, was given a sentence of ten years’ imprisonment after the Criminal Appeal Court ruled that the cumulo sentence of six years fell “outside the range of sentences reasonably open to the trial judge” and was “unduly lenient”.

Lord Brodie, Lady Clark of Calton and Lord Turnbull heard that the respondent worked as a care worker at two residential units for children and young people in Edinburgh, where he committed the offences between 1995 and 2006 against vulnerable children in his care.

The Crown relied on the doctrine of mutual corroboration to corroborate the accounts of the four complainers, the offences having come to light following a cold case review that joined together complaints from separate former residents of the young people’s units.

The evidence disclosed that over a period of some 11 years the respondent groomed each of the complainers, gaining their trust and making them feel special, before sexually abusing them.

Collins was convicted of repeatedly raping one girl and abusing three others after a trial at the High Court in Edinburgh in April 2016 and sentenced later that month.

The trial judge issued a sentencing statement in which she referred to the respondent having committed “an appalling course of criminal conduct consisting of the predatory sexual abuse of four young teenage girls” who were in his care.

She noted that each of the four complainers was “extremely vulnerable” and that the respondent was in a position of authority in relation to each of them, but he abused his position of trust by developing sexual relationships with the girls.

As indicated by counsel in his plea in mitigation to the trial judge, a risk assessment undertaken as part of the criminal justice social work report (CJSWR) assessed the respondent as presenting a “low risk” of both sexual and general offending.

In her report to the appeal court, the trial judge reported that she considered that the seriousness of the offences involving “gross abuse of trust” over a lengthy period of time was “appropriately recognised” by the sentence of six years’ imprisonment.

However, the Crown argued that the sentence imposed was “inappropriate” as it “failed to give due weight to the gravity of the offences”

While it was accepted that the judge had taken account of the said aggravating factors, it was submitted that she was in error in giving “insufficient weight” to these factors in determination of sentence.

The sentence imposed “failed to satisfy the need for retribution and deterrence” and the judge had placed “undue weight” upon the age of the respondent and the low risk of reoffending referred to in the CJSWR, it was argued.

The solicitor advocate appearing for the respondent accepted that the offences of which he had been convicted were “extremely serious”, but added that the trial judge’s sentencing statement demonstrated that she had neither taken any inappropriate matters into account nor left any appropriate matters out of account in passing the sentence of six years’ imprisonment.

It was submitted that the sentence imposed “did not fall outside the range of sentences which the trial judge could reasonably have considered appropriate”.

However, the appeal judges quashed the sentence appealed against and substituted a sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment.

Delivering the opinion of the court, Lord Brodie said: “As the trial judge observed in her sentencing remarks, the respondent committed an appalling series of offences involving the predatory sexual abuse of four vulnerable teenaged girls.

“The respondent was in a position of trust in relation to each complainer and the offences comprised a gross breach of that trust.

“Although the respondent had no analogous previous convictions, he has shown no remorse and continues to deny responsibility for the offences.

“The trial judge who saw and heard the four complainers and the respondent give evidence must be accorded due deference but, in light of the review of the domestic authorities, and in all the circumstances of the case, the court is bound to hold that the cumulo sentence of six years falls outside the range of sentences reasonably open to the trial judge and is unduly lenient.”

The judges referred to the sentences imposed in other cases in arriving at a sentence of 10 years, but added that in the circumstances of the case that could be considered as “moderate”.

© Scottish Legal News Ltd 2021

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