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HMA v David Neill

At the High Court in Glasgow today (28 February 2020) Judge Hughes QC sentenced David Neill to 7 years imprisonment after he was convicted of charges of indecent assault.

On sentencing, Judge Hughes QC made the following statement in court:

“You have been convicted of 4 charges of indecent assault on 3 separate male complainers dating from 1982 to 1987. One of the complainers gave his evidence by TV link from Canada whilst the other two used special measures to give their evidence here before the jury in Glasgow. Some of the witnesses were quite distressed during their evidence and made it clear to the jury that your criminal offending against them had caused them considerable, lifelong, personal difficulties. You sat throughout the trial displaying no sign of any remorse or regret. On the other hand each of the complainers gave their evidence with considerable dignity and should hopefully take some comfort from the fact that they were able to give their evidence to the jury and they were believed. Notwithstanding the problems that you have caused them it is to be hoped that they can eventually put this episode in their life behind them and move forward.

Each complainer gave evidence about how they had come from difficult home circumstances and they were excited by your promise to offer them employment on the Waverley paddle steamer, at a time when unemployment was high and it would have been difficult for them to find a job. You offered the prospects that they would further their naval careers through your guidance and help. With hindsight they now acknowledge that you were actually grooming them and using them for your own selfish, evil, sexual gratification. You plied them with alcohol and coerced them into taking part in sexual activities against their will. They are now deeply ashamed of what happened then. Having heard the evidence in this case the jury obviously found that to be so. Each of the complainers narrated to the jury that because of your predatory sexual behaviour towards them you have left each individual with horrendous lifelong consequences.

One of them chose to emigrate to Canada to try to put the past behind him. The other two gave graphic evidence that following your sexual assaults on them they suffered from mental health difficulties, alcohol and drug abuse problems together with long-term unemployment. They encountered relationship problems. They blame you for all of that. By your illegal behaviour towards them you have blighted their lives.

I have considered the terms of an able plea in mitigation made on your behalf and the Criminal Justice Social Work report setting out your background details. Your defence was very capably undertaken by your senior counsel. It is a matter of concern that you still show no signs of remorse for what you have done and you believe that you acted normally. You fail to see the problems that you have caused your victims.

I take the view that this was an appalling series of offences carried out over a considerable period of time. It is quite clear from the evidence that your victims, who are now middle-aged, still suffer horrendous consequences as a result of your actions. It is noteworthy that these offences occurred almost 30 years ago. The courts will send out a clear message that anyone indulging in the type of offending for which you have been found guilty can expect significant sentences. It is also clear that the courts will also ensure that the relevant punishment is enforced notwithstanding how old those offences are. You are now receiving this sentence in your old age. However, no matter how long after the offences took place there will always be a day of reckoning.

Because of the nature of these offences including the number of complainers and the time span over which you committed these offences, a significant custodial sentence is inevitable. In my view you are also guilty of a gross breach of trust placed in you by each of your victims, their families and indeed your employers.

I have had the benefit of reading victim impact statements confirming graphic details of the difficulties you caused the men concerned throughout their lives. In considering the appropriate sentence in this case I take into account your record of previous convictions which confirm that in 1998 you were sentenced to 3 years imprisonment in respect of 2 charges of shameless and indecent conduct and other sexual offences. I am obliged by law to take that three-year period into account when imposing the sentence in this case given the fact that those offences occurred at the same time when you were involved in these current offences. Taking that into account and looking at the total effect of your offending, I consider that the appropriate sentence for this case should be for a cumulo period of 7 years backdated to 3 February 2020 when you were first remanded in custody.

In terms of section 92 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 you have been convicted of an offence which is a sexual offence to which part 2 of that Act applies. The notification period will apply for an indefinite period and the clerk of court will provide you with the relative notice in due course; I direct the clerk of court to intimate details of your conviction to the Scottish ministers in terms of section 7 of the Protection of Vulnerable Groups (Scotland) Act 2007.”