Edinburgh law student loses appeal against being placed on children’s list following sexual offences against classmates
A law student in Edinburgh who was placed on the children’s list after being convicted of several sexual offences against schoolmates on Uist has had his appeal against the decision of the Scottish Ministers to list him refused.
David Alexander was convicted of three statutory sexual offences committed when he was in secondary school against girls of similar age to him at the time. He later left the island to attend university in Edinburgh. He argued that he would be stigmatised by the listing and unable to effectively pursue a career in the legal profession following the conclusion of his degree as a result.
The case was heard in Lochmaddy Sheriff Court by Sheriff Gordon Lamont. The pursuer was represented by Sloan of Aamer Anwar & Co, and the defender by Stevenson acting for the Scottish Ministers.
The pursuer was convicted of three offences under the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009 in October 2018. The offences were broadly similar in detail, involving the pursuer placing his hands on the complainers’ breasts, legs, and genitals over their clothing, and were committed against three teenage female complainers. At the time of the offences, the complainers were aged between 13 and 16 and the pursuer was aged between 14 and 16.
The offences occurred in public places and were described as involving elements of “power, control, and manipulative behaviour”. The pursuer was sentenced in cumulo to a community payback order comprising 180 hours of unpaid work, two years of supervision, and associated conduct requirements relevant to sexual offending. In September 2018, the defenders included the pursuer on the children’s list as per their duties under the Protection of Vulnerable Groups (Scotland) Act 2007.
The pursuer completed his unpaid work requirement to a high standard. Assessments carried out by the social work department, the most recent of which was completed in February 2020, recorded him as presenting a moderate risk, and in respect of sexual offending he never fell into the lowest category of risk.
It was maintained by the pursuer during the trial and following his conviction that he was innocent, which was found to have limited his ability to engage with social work intervention. He raised an appeal against his listing because he was concerned that he would be unable to work in a legal career following the conclusion of his studies if he remained on the list and that he would be labelled a “paedophile”.
Evidence given by the pursuer’s former social worker stated that the pursuer showed little remorse for his victims and engaged in “victim-blaming”. He could not say that the pursuer properly understood consent and described him as an intelligent young man but emotionally immature.
Counsel for the pursuer submitted that being placed on the children’s list represented a disproportionate interference in his right to a private life, and that the listing would stigmatise him and thus affect his future prospects. The pursuer stressed he was not attracted to children, did not intend to work with them in the future, and was “shocked and disgusted” to be put on the list as the complainers were his peers.
Little evidence led
In his judgment, Sheriff Lamont outlined his role in the appeal as follows: “I require to make an independent assessment and decision based on the evidence placed before me. This is not a review of the defenders’ decision.”
On the effect of the listing on the pursuer’s future career, he said: “There was insufficient evidence before the court to allow any appropriate determination that the pursuer’s employment prospects would be adversely impacted by being placed on the children’s list. Little evidence was led regarding whether this would impact either his admission to the legal profession (e.g. no witness from the Law Society) or impact his employment prospects (e.g. no employment expert).”
He continued: “The pursuer had not inquired with the Law Society what the impact of being placed on the children’s list would be. The only evidence in this regard came from speculation by the pursuer.”
Evaluating the purpose of the listing, Sheriff Lamont said: “The legitimate aim of listing the pursuer is one of public safety and prevention of further offending. Accordingly, even if article 8 had been properly engaged, the listing of the pursuer would fall within the exceptions set out in article 8(2) given the evidence before me.”
Considering the pursuer’s argument that he was also a child at the time of the offences, he said: “The pursuer is currently aged 19. The difference in age between the pursuer and a female child aged 17 is no greater than the two year difference between himself and the complainer in his first offence.”
He continued: “The pursuer has recently demonstrated the capacity to sexually assault teenage girls. No expert evidence was led by the pursuer to show that he was no longer attracted to females under the age of 18 or that he no longer posed a risk to that age group.”
Sheriff Lamont concluded: “The pursuer lacks a proper understanding of consent, shows little empathy or remorse and lacks insight into his offending behaviour. Section 21(3) [of the 2007 Act] requires me to consider the matter afresh on the evidence put before me. Having done so, I am satisfied that the appellant is unsuitable to work with children.”
For these reasons, the pursuer’s appeal was refused.
© Scottish Legal News Ltd 2021