HMA v WILLIAM ALEXANDER WOOD

At the High Court in Edinburgh Lord Stewart sentenced William Wood to 22 years imprisonment after he was found guilty of the sexual and physical abuse of three children between 1970 and 1991.

27 May 2013

On sentencing Lord Stewart made the following statement in court:

“WILLIAM ALEXANDER WOOD on 29 April 2013, after an eight day trial, you were convicted by the jury in the High Court at Glasgow of charges involving the sexual and physical abuse of three children. The offences took place over a 21 year period from 1970 to 1991. The story that the jurors heard was one of subhuman depravity and tear-jerking misery. At the close of the Crown case the advocate depute withdrew a number of charges for which she judged there was insufficient evidence. Other victims were mentioned in the charges that were withdrawn. The jury returned unanimous convictions on all remaining charges, nine in total. Those are the offences I have to deal with.

You are now aged 71. The duration and seriousness of your offending against the children who were, for much of the time totally in your power, means that there really is no option but to punish you with long prison sentences. If I were to impose fitting sentences for each offence and to make the sentences run consecutively the total period of imprisonment would far exceed what is likely to be left of your life. I have moderated the sentences accordingly; and I have cumulated the sentences for the offences against each victim on the view that physical and sexual abuse was part of the same course of conduct.   The comparative length of the sentences gives an indication of the relative seriousness of the offending against each victim. In total I shall sentence you to 22 years in prison.

In terms of charge 1 you were convicted of raping victim A from the age of six to the age of 25. As a result she gave birth to three children, two of whom were born with birth defects. The first child was born in 1981 when the victim was 16 and was born blind and deaf. The first child died when she was 23 years old. The second child, who was born in 1985, survived for only three months. The third child was born in 1987 and is apparently healthy. You were also convicted in terms of charge 2 of attempting to rape victim E on various occasions over the same period. In terms of charge 3 you were convicted of physically assaulting victim A to her injury on various occasions over the same period by spitting on her, punching her and forcing her to the ground. In terms of charge 6 you were convicted of threatening to kidnap and kill the victim’s first child and of making other threats of personal violence in order, the evidence showed, to intimidate the victim.

As regards the victim B, in terms of charge 12 you were convicted of raping her from the age of six to the age of fifteen. In terms of charge 13 you were convicted of attempting to rape her on one occasion during the same period. You were convicted in terms of charge 14 of physically assaulting victim B to her injury by slapping her, punching and kicking her and striking her with a belt on various occasions from when she was three till she was fifteen. You were also convicted of making threats on one occasion towards her when she was fourteen or fifteen. That was in terms of charge 15.

In terms of charge 16 you were convicted of assaulting victim C to his injury by punching him and forcing him to the ground on various occasions when he was between the ages of six and twenty.

I have considered the terms of the Criminal Justice Social Inquiry Report which I requested at the last hearing and I have listened carefully to the mitigation offered on your behalf, such as it is. Originally you denied paternity. You were content to let the remains of the deceased children be exhumed so that DNA tests could be carried out. Thankfully exhumation was unnecessary because the police managed to find DNA matches from Guthrie heel prick blood samples which are routinely taken from all newborns and stored. The DNA results compelled you to admit paternity: but you denied everything else. By denying the charges you have forced your victims to come to court and to relive the events of their earlier lives in intimate detail in front of the jury. You remain in denial. You have never expressed regret or remorse. You justify your conduct towards victim A, as you told the jury when giving evidence, by stating that she seduced you when she was fifteen or sixteen and that she continued as a willing partner in the relationship. I note that in other respects you appear to have been a conforming and hardworking member of the community. You worked as a forester for over 45 years. You have been married for 50 years. You have only one previous conviction which was for benefits fraud. I have taken account of the passage of time since your offending, more than 20 years. You have been in custody since 29 April 2013 when the jury convicted you. Having regard to all the circumstances I shall impose the following sentences.

Dealing first with the offences against victim A, I sentence you to be imprisoned for a period of fourteen years in cumulo in respect of charges one, two, three and six upon the indictment; I order that said period of imprisonment is to date from 29 April 2013;

Turning to the offences against victim B, I sentence you to be imprisoned for a period of seven years in cumulo in respect of charges twelve, thirteen, fourteen and fifteen upon the indictment; I order that said cumulo period of imprisonment imposed on charges twelve, thirteen, fourteen and fifteen is to run consecutively to the cumulo period of imprisonment imposed upon charges one, two, three and six; and

For the assaults on victim C, I sentence you to be imprisoned for a period of one year in respect of charge sixteen upon the indictment; I order that said period of imprisonment imposed on charge sixteen is to run consecutively to the cumulo period of imprisonment imposed upon charges twelve, thirteen, fourteen and fifteen.

Since 29 April you have been subject to the provisions of the Sexual Offences Act 2003. The Clerk of Court will shortly provide you with a further certificate in terms of that Act.”