HMA v Stewart McBride

At the High Court in Glasgow on 20 May 2015, Lady Rae imposed an extended sentence of 14 years imprisonment on Stewart McBride – a custodial part of 11 years followed by an extension period of three years on licence – after the accused was found guilty of sexually abusing children.

On sentencing, Lady Rae made the following statement in court: 

“Stewart McBride, the sexual abuse of defenceless young children is one of the most heinous and serious crimes that these courts have to deal with. The indictment before me discloses horrific, repeated crimes over a period of almost 20 years, committed against two young victims. 

You commenced abusing these little girls in the worst possible way, when each was very young, as young as three, and from the evidence which they gave it is clear that the attacks on them were such that each has retained a memory of the incidents from that young age. In addition the evidence disclosed that you used threats of violence to ensure that neither reported the offences. It is unsurprising that they failed to report what was happening to them for some time.  

Not satisfied with having abused them horribly over many years, you caused them to have to give evidence in a court, requiring them to re-live, at least in part, the ordeal they went through. Both of these young women as they now are, have in my view shown considerable courage in subjecting themselves to that process during which you suggested they were liars. It is obvious that the impact of years of abuse on both young women has been considerable. 

You have displayed no remorse whatsoever for your conduct. I note that, although you were convicted in 2004 of sexually abusing another two children and were sentenced to a lengthy period in custody, you have failed even to attempt to address you entrenched sexual offending.  

It is said in the criminal justice social work report that the social worker believes that your reluctance to discuss your offending is due to “deep shame”. No one who saw and heard you giving evidence could have failed to observe that you displayed no shame whatsoever accordingly I am unable to understand on what evidence that belief was based. 

I am invited to reduce this sentence because of the fact that you were convicted in 2004 of similar offending against two other children. That conviction was not put before me by the Crown as a previous conviction because it post-dates the current offences. It relates to conduct over a period of 10 years between 1991 and 2001 and coincides only with part of the libel in the present case.  

Your solicitor advocate acknowledges that the present indictment libels charges which are much more serious than those in the earlier case.  When that previous indictment was put before the High Court the prosecuting authorities were unaware of the present charges because the victims had not made disclosures. I imply no criticism of the victims; I am simply stating a fact. From a prosecution point of view, therefore, the cases could not have been dealt with together.

I am not prepared to reduce the sentence on the present charges to any extent for a number of reasons. 

Firstly, I intend to sentence on this indictment as if that other conviction were not before me, although I am entitled to consider relevant material in the criminal justice social work report, such as your attitude to addressing your offending and other factors which impact on your risk in the future. 

My second reason for not reducing the sentence for the period you have been in custody is because, had both indictments been dealt with together it is highly probable that a much more severe sentence would have been imposed and potentially could have been an indeterminate sentence. 

Thirdly, in the earlier case pleas were tendered but not on the present indictment.

Fourthly, I do not have the precise details or a narrative of the charges on the earlier indictment.

Fifthly, assuming that all charges had been indicted together, it is difficult if not impossible, in my view, to attempt to put myself in the position of the sentencing judge in 2004 dealing with charges, some of which were accepted by the accused and some which went to trial, select a sentence that would have been imposed, especially when I do not know the circumstances of some of those crimes, and then attempt to apply some artificial discount period to reflect the sentence actually imposed in 2004.

Had I taken account of that other indictment and had I decided to apply some discount, then the starting point for this sentence would have been significantly higher that the periods I am about to impose.

I shall have regard to your age and state of health. I also note that you assert that you were abused at the hands of your father but there is little mitigation that can be offered for such appalling crimes. If indeed you were abused by your father then you must have experienced pain and suffering yet you chose to inflict similar suffering on others.

I intend to impose separate sentences on each of the charges but those will all run concurrently with each other and will be backdated to 14 August 2014 when you were first remanded in custody.

On each of charges 1,2, 4 and 5 the sentence will be 11 years imprisonment.

In respect of charge 3 this was a statutory charge and the maximum period allowed by the 1976 Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act was two years which I shall impose.

On charge 6 I shall also impose a custodial part of 11 years but because of that nature of these charge and the obvious risk which you present to the public in the future, especially to children, I am going to extend that sentence by a further three years to ensure that there is an extended period of supervision in the community which I trust will enhance public safety for the maximum possible period.”