HMA v WILLIAM BURNS

Today at the High Court in Edinburgh Lord Turnbull sentenced William Burns to 12 years imprisonment after he pled guilty to a number of charges of sexual abuse.

On sentencing Lord Turnbull made the following statement in court:

“As an adult male you conducted a campaign of sexual exploitation of young girls over a period of twenty years when you were aged between mid forties to mid sixties

You predominantly targeted girls in their early teens and one of your victims was only 11 years old when your abuse of her commenced.

Your conduct was callous and calculated and you went to considerable lengths to ingratiate yourself into the company of young girls, mostly targeting those who were vulnerable in one fashion or another.

You advanced your interests by supplying the girls with cigarettes, alcohol and cannabis and it is difficult to think of any worse manner of conduct on the part of an adult directed at children.

It is perfectly obvious that only a very substantial prison sentence would appropriately reflect the disgust with which your conduct should be viewed. It is of course right that I should take account of your age and the effect upon you of a lengthy prison sentence. However unlike many such cases these offences were not committed a number of years ago when you were much younger.

The charges to which you have pled guilty reflect persistent conduct on your part throughout your fifties, into your sixties and right up until January 2010 when your activity was brought to an end by the investigation into these offences on the eve of your sixty seventh birthday.

In these circumstances your age has very little mitigating effect and given the length of your offending your age provides no basis for mercy.

These are the sentences which I consider to be well merited in the circumstances of this case:

Charge 1 – two years imprisonment to date from 26 March 2010

Charge 4 – one years imprisonment to run consecutively

Charge 5 – one year and 6 months imprisonment to run consecutively

Charge 7 – admonished

Charge 8 - one year and 6 months imprisonment to run consecutively

Charge 10 – six months imprisonment ot run consecutively

Charge 11 – six months imprisonment to run consecutively

Taking charges 12, 13, 14 & 16 together a period of four years imprisonment to run consecutively to the other sentences imposed.

Charge 17 – four years imprisonment to run consecutively

Charge 19 one years imprisonment to run consecutively

 The result is a total period of 16 years imprisonment from 26 March 2010. However I am prepared to restrict that period to reflect the fact that you pled guilty and I will do that by a factor of 25% resulting in a restricted sentence of 12 years imprisonment”.