Prosecutors meet family of young sex assault victim after appeal decision

Prosecutors have met the family of a girl who was sexually assaulted by a teenager to explain their decision not to appeal against his sentence.

Christopher Daniel, 18, was found guilty of repeated sexual assaults on the young girl but was granted an absolute discharge by Sheriff Gerard Sinclair.

The decision at Dumbarton Sheriff Court means that Daniel, who was between 15 and 17 at the time, will not be on the sex offenders register or have any criminal record.

Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service officials met the girl's family on Friday to update them on the handling of the case.

It comes after prosecutors decided previously that they could not appeal against the sentence on the grounds of undue leniency because the case does not meet the high legal test required.

The girl's mother told STV news she spent much of the meeting in tears.

She said: "Today they confirmed that they won't appeal.

"The reason they gave was that in law the sentence is deemed to be not 'unduly lenient'. It seems that it does not tick enough boxes to be successful.

"I asked them 'do you think this is right?' and you could tell from their body language that they did not."

A Crown Office spokesman said: "Officials from the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service have met with the family to provide them with information about the handling of this case and the Crown's role in appeals against sentencing."

The Crown has previously stressed that sentencing is a matter for the sheriff who acts independently on the basis of the facts of a particular case.

In an earlier statement, it said: "The Crown has a limited right of appeal against sentence. In order to appeal the law sets a high test. The sentence must not only be lenient, but it must be 'unduly lenient', i.e. outwith the reasonable range of sentences that could have been imposed by the court.

"Having given careful consideration of the full facts and circumstances of this case, Crown Counsel decided that this was not a case in which the high legal test was met."

Following the sheriff's decision, a Judicial Office for Scotland 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."

It added any recorded conviction for the offence would have "serious consequences in terms of the accused's future career" and any sentence would mean Daniel would "probably be unable to continue his university course".

Scottish Labour is now demanding the sentencing guidelines for sexual assault are changed, particularly for young people.

In a letter to the Scottish Sentencing Council, justice spokesman Daniel Johnson wrote: "The response to the verdict and subsequent written report has been one of shock and confusion, not only from the public but also organisations like Scottish Rape Crisis."

A spokesman for the Scottish Sentencing Council said: "While the council does not comment on individual cases, which are a matter for the presiding judge, we are aware that sexual offending has increasingly become an area of public concern in recent years.

"Sentencing in such cases often involves difficult decisions in complex circumstances, particularly where the victim, offender, or both, are children.

"We recently announced our intention to develop sentencing guidelines in relation to sexual offences, which we believe will bring significant benefits both to the judiciary and to the public, particularly in explaining how sentencing decisions are reached.

"We are also developing a separate guideline specifically in relation to the sentencing of young people. Any guidelines developed will be subject to a public consultation in due course."

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