At Edinburgh Sheriff Court Sheriff Kathrine Mackie sentenced Bill Walker to 12 months in prison after he was found guilty of a number of assault charges.

On sentencing Sheriff Mackie made the following statement in court:

“On 22nd August 2013 you were found guilty of the offences contained in the complaint against you.  However incredulous you may be at the verdict it is now my duty to sentence you for the offences of which you have been convicted. 

In considering sentence I have had regard to a number of factors. 

  1. You do not have any convictions prior to the commission of these offences.
  2. You are now aged 71 years.
  3. The offences were committed between 1967 and 1995.
  4. Since the last date of these offences in 1995 you have not been convicted of any offences.  While it may be said that there has been no criminal activity for about 18 years it may also be said that you have not been held to account for these offences for at least that period.
  5. Some of the offences of which you have been convicted can be regarded as more serious than others including those where injury was sustained or a weapon employed.
  6. Taken together the cumulative effect of the offences displays a pattern of abusive behaviour within three intimate relationships over a period of 28 years.  As is ably demonstrated by this case the response to domestic abuse incidents is now radically different from that of thirty or so years ago.  The circumstances of these offences, where reported to police, such as with charges 5 and 7, would not now be considered “just a domestic”.  It is now recognised that the effects of domestic abuse can be profound resulting in physical and psychological harm to those who experience it, whether directly or indirectly, and considerable cost to society at large. 
  7. You tendered pleas of not guilty to all charges and required your former wives to give evidence.

I have also had regard to all that has been said on your behalf about the consequences in terms of reputation and financially, and to the terms of the reports that have been prepared.  I have noted from those reports that you maintain your denial of any wrongdoing, and that you perceive yourself as the victim of various conspiracies, amongst your former wives, political opponents and the media.  While it cannot be denied that there has been considerable media attention in this case and issues thought to arise from it, even before the conclusion of the legal process, I share the opinion of the author of the Criminal Justice Social Work Report that your incredulity at being convicted of these offences and your perceived victimisation are further indications of your abdication of responsibility for your behaviour.  I have also noted from the terms of the reports, as I noted during your evidence, what can only be described as contempt for your former wives and your stepdaughter and the derogatory manner in which you refer to them. 

I formed the impression, and this appears to be shared by the author of the Criminal Justice Social Work Report, that you have no understanding of the impact of domestic abuse on victims or children.  I considered it significant that a 16-year-old girl thought it necessary to protect her mother from you and that you professed to be unaware of any injuries sustained by Mrs Gruber even though they were documented in medical records, and thus must have been highly visible and on one occasion necessitated a visit to hospital.  I have been unable to detect either during the trial or in the reports any evidence of remorse for anything or anyone except yourself.

Having noted the extreme denial and minimisation of behaviour displayed to the authors of the reports prepared it is in my opinion unrealistic to believe that a programme designed to change men’s attitudes condoning domestic abuse has any prospect of success.  There is no basis for believing that the intense media scrutiny combined with your public position has had any bearing on your willingness to be accountable for your behaviour or that this might change within the time frame of the Caledonian Programme, whatever time frame might be allowed.  From the position which you adopted in evidence and from my understanding of the terms of the Criminal Justice Social Work Report the author of that report is in error in stating that you offered concessions in terms of your use of physical force against your former wives to exert control and achieve your own ends. 

I formed the impression that in the few incidents where you acknowledged the use of physical force you believe you were entitled to or justified in its use and certainly have made no apology for it.  Your denial appears to me to be absolute.  There is no acknowledgement of any unacceptable behaviour.  There is no indication of any motivation to change.  Accordingly, in my opinion, the conclusion that there is sufficient scope to work with you towards addressing your entrenched attitudes, values and beliefs supportive of domestic abuse is flawed.  Your expressed willingness to comply with such a programme is in my opinion intended only to attempt to avoid a custodial sentence and not an indication of any motivation to change your behaviour.

As I have already said the offences in this complaint are of varying degrees of seriousness.  Individually some of them might not merit a custodial sentence.  The cumulative effect of them, and the pattern of abuse or course of criminal conduct, is such that a custodial sentence is merited for all offences. 

I have considered whether any alternative to a custodial sentence is appropriate.  In cases involving domestic abuse it will usually be hoped that there is sufficient acknowledgement of unacceptable behaviour to allow for a process of education and change through the Caledonian Men’s Programme.  For the reasons already given I do not consider that such a disposal is appropriate in this case. 

A considerable number of years have passed since these offences were committed.  However that is no mitigation of the crimes.  As I have already said the effect of domestic abuse on those affected by it can be profound.  It was clear to me from the demeanour and the evidence of your former wives that in varying degrees the effect of your behaviour remains vivid and distressing to them.  It would also appear to have had an adverse effect upon your relationship with your children and while you seek to blame Mrs Gruber for their attitude towards you I noted from productions lodged by you that at a time when the younger children were old enough to express their own views they had no wish to have contact with you because of your temper and there was also no contact with your older child or your stepdaughter. 

I agree with the terms of the report that a Restriction of Liberty Order is not an appropriate disposal in view of the assessment of moderate risk of analogous offending in the context of intimate relationships and with regard to the protection of your present wife.

Having regard to the gravity of these offences as a result of the cumulative effect of them, your extreme denial and complete absence of any remorse and the assessment of risk I have come to the conclusion that a custodial sentence is the only appropriate disposal.  While your age and absence of previous convictions might have been reflected in a reduction in sentence, in my opinion, the repeated abusive and violent behaviour towards your three former wives and stepdaughter over a period of some 28 years outweighs such factors.

I propose to distinguish between the offences to reflect their relative seriousness:-

Each of Charges 8, 12, 14, 19, 20 and 22 – three months imprisonment

Each of Charges 4, 9, 13, 15, 16, and 17 – six months imprisonment

Each of Charges 2, 3, 6, 10, and 11 – eight months imprisonment

Each of Charges 1, , 18, 21, 23 and 24 – ten months imprisonment

Each of Charges 5 and 7 – twelve months imprisonment

These sentences will be concurrent making a total period of imprisonment of 12 months”.