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Anger at abuser's reduced sentence

By Iain Wilson, Chief Reporter, the Herald 07/01/04

CHILD sex abuse victims last night called for a Scottish Executive inquiry after a convicted paedophile's sentence was cut because the charge of shameless indecency has been abolished.

The reduction followed the Court of Appeal's landmark ruling in September that the charge is based on "unsound theory" and should no longer be applied.

John Porteous was convicted - some 10 months earlier - on two counts of shameless indecency and two of lewd and libidinous behaviour against boys in his care when a "house father" at the Quarriers village in Renfrewshire.

His eight-year sentence was yesterday reduced to five years after the Crown conceded the two charges of shameless indecency should not stand.

His two victims were aged only eight and 12 when the abuse started at Quarriers, where Porteous was also a church warden.

David Whelan, one of his victims, who waived his right to anonymity, said of the ruling: "I do not understand it. Are we now saying it was acceptable for people to be shameless and indecent?"

Mr Whelan, who told of being abused in the 150ft church tower at the childcare charity's village, added: "There has to be an inquiry to encompass all issues arising from this case, from initial investigations of complaints to the present day. I also want to know how someone can be given the benefit of a change to the law after being charged and convicted."

Another former Quarriers' boy, who is leading campaigns over abuse allegations dating as far back as the 1960s, described the cut in sentence as "shameful". He added: "I now wonder how many other child abusers will have their sentences reduced."

It is believed dozens of sex offenders will launch appeals after the ruling that shameless indecency, used since 1980 to prosecute men who had sex with underage boys, be scrapped.

Lawyers confirmed appeals on grounds that people "were taken to court on a law now discredited and held to be wrong", and deemed too vague when the European Convention on Human Rights requires crimes are defined with "reasonable certainty".

After the Crown yesterday conceded the ruling effectively did away with the charge of shameless indecency, Lord Gill, the lord justice clerk, accepted the sentence should be reduced.

Sitting with Lady Cosgrove and Lord Wheatley, he stressed the remaining two charges were grave offences and should still have a significant sentence.

Victims last night also demanded the right to have their say at all stages of the legal process.

A pilot system allowing such declarations before sentencing of convicted criminals was launched two months ago in courts at Kilmarnock, Ayr and Edinburgh.

The Crown Office insisted that yesterday's decision was based on the individual circumstances of the case and "should not have wider implications for other appeals".

Copyright © 2004 Newsquest (Herald & Times)

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