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Equal Treatment Bench Book

The aim of the Equal Treatment Bench Book is to offer assistance and advice to judges who have to ensure that all who come before the courts are dealt with in an understanding and sensitive fashion regardless of their personal backgrounds. It includes advice on issues arising on sexual orientation and gender identity as these are areas which are capable of misunderstanding and misconception.  It is therefore desirable that judges should have as clear an understanding of this topic as is possible.

Apart from all of the foregoing there are other circumstances, regardless of questions of ethnicity or sexual orientation and gender identity, in which some of those who come before the courts may be at a disadvantage when compared with other court users. They may have a physical or mental disability; they may be children; they may have been the victims of, or have been associated with, domestic abuse; they may be witnesses who, for whatever reason, are apprehensive about the prospect of appearing in court; or they may have to, or may choose to, conduct court proceedings in person without the benefit of legal representation. All require to be dealt with in a sensitive and understanding manner. 

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HMA v Ronald Hardman

At the High Court in Glasgow today, 11 September 2019, Lord Beckett sentenced Ronald Hardman to nine years’ imprisonment after the accused pled guilty to 15 charges of child sexual abuse committed against 12 different boys.

On sentencing, Lord Beckett made the following statement in court: 

“I take account of what has been said on your behalf in mitigation. You have pled guilty at a relatively early stage so that there did not require to be a trial and witnesses did not have to give evidence. 

“You are 74 years old and I take that into account as well as what I have been told by Mr Macara about your state of health. I recognise that these crimes were committed some time ago, but their effects are still being felt today. 

“Whilst it is not technically a previous conviction, I cannot ignore that you are currently serving a sentence of imprisonment for five years for four charges involving the sexual abuse of children. Those offences occurred within the time frame of this indictment, but involved different children. 

“On this indictment you have pled guilty to 15 charges of child sexual abuse committed against 12 different boys in relation to whom you were in a position of trust. 

“I recognise the limits of your conduct, but you seriously sexually abused these boys, many of them repeatedly, in a campaign which extended from 1961 when you were 16 to 1994 when you were 49. 

“It is apparent that you deceived, manipulated, groomed and on occasion coerced the children that you abused. 

“You took steps to conceal what you were doing. You frequently carried out your activities in out of the way places where adult help could not easily be found by those that you abused. All of this indicates that your sexual offending was pre-meditated and planned. 

“This was grossly corrupting behaviour of children who were entrusted to your care by their families. 

“I have read and considered carefully the impact statements of six of the people that you abused. I have learned of the effects of what you did, blighting the lives of those that you abused even now. 

“You have caused anxiety, depression, and problems with self-esteem which have had an impact on the careers of some of those that you have abused. Some have suffered difficulties in their personal relationships. 

“As well as causing profound and enduring harm to the boys you abused, such conduct also has a wider and socially corrosive effect. It besmirches the reputation of organisations like the Air Training Corps which can provide valuable opportunities for children who may not otherwise have them. 

“It can cause suspicion about the many selfless and innocent volunteers such organisations depend on. Behaviour such as yours may inhibit people from volunteering as leaders and may inhibit families from allowing their children to take part. 

“The courts must do what they can to seek to eradicate the sexual abuse of children engaged in such activities both to protect children and to preserve the existence of organisations providing them with opportunities and training. 

“For such prolonged and serious sexual offending there is no suitable alternative to a substantial sentence of imprisonment in order to express the community’s abhorrence of such conduct being committed in the circumstances disclosed in this case; to punish you and to seek to deter you and others who would behave in this way. 

“Notwithstanding your age, having regard to the gravity of these crimes committed over so many years, the repetition involved and the effect on those that you abused, I would have imposed a sentence of imprisonment for 12 years. 

“Your pleading guilty meant that none of the complainers had to give evidence, but your indication that you would do so came six months after you first appeared in court and so this was not the earliest possible stage at which the indication that you would plead guilty could have been given. Whilst I do not put great weight on it, I note also that you declined to cooperate with the social worker who sought to prepare a report for this court. 

“However I am required by law to make some allowance for your early plea of guilty. You are sentenced to nine years’ imprisonment, which commences today. 

“I certify that you have been convicted of sexual offences within the scope of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 and you will be subject to notification requirements indefinitely. 

“I direct the Clerk of Court, at the appropriate time, to intimate details of your convictions to the Scottish Ministers so that they may determine if your name should be included in the lists of those unsuitable to work with children.”