HMA v Francis Cairney

At Hamilton Sheriff Court today, 7 February 2019, Sheriff Daniel Kelly QC sentenced Francis Cairney to four years’ imprisonment after the accused was found guilty of historical child sex offences. On sentencing, Sheriff Kelly made the following statement in court:

“Through a protracted and painful process it has now been established that over an extended period in excess of 20 years you preyed upon boys who played in football teams that you coached. The tragedy is that on the surface it all seemed idyllic.

“By all accounts you were a gifted and successful football manager. What the boys most wanted was to play football, it being their dream to play for Celtic, and you organised a church youth team and went on to manage a team at the Celtic Boys Club.

“This proved to be the sinister cover for you to use your powerful position to prey upon boys. You were trusted in the church community.

“At Celtic Boys Club you had a great say in which of the young men would progress to being taken on by Celtic Football Club.

“A wolf in sheep’s clothing, little did the parents suspect that the revered football manager was in fact an active paedophile.

“In a period when supervision was lax or non-existent, there was often no other adult present with you.

“Indeed, it was left to the boys in the church football team to protect each other.

“They eventually took their own steps to ensure that none would be left alone with you if any required treatment.

“It is disturbing that, when some of the boys did gather the courage to speak to the other team manager and the priest, the matter was not addressed at that time. Instead, this simply resulted in you being allowed no further active involvement in the church football team.

“However, you were fully free to move on to Celtic Boys Club, even receiving a send-off. This approach enabled your behaviour to continue there.

“My focus is on finding the appropriate sentence for your offending. I have to address your culpability and to take account of the harm which has been done.

“You have shown no remorse or empathy, continuing to peddle your version of events and to maintain the facade which you have presented for all of these years.

“The latest date in the charges is in 1986 and it is certainly of significance that there is no allegation of wrong-doing before me in relation to anything done for a considerable time.

“A consequence of these matters only now coming to court, though, is that for decades you have not been held to account for your offending. You have had the opportunity to enjoy many years of productive life.

“Your victims have not all have been so lucky. The impact on them is still being felt.

“Those who gave evidence described how they were profoundly affected by the abuse. Now men, they spoke about how they were tormented and traumatised by it.

“One, who became extremely withdrawn and later suffered from anxiety and with alcohol, can but speculate as to what contribution your actions made to that.

“Another, finding that he could no longer remain in Glasgow, felt unable to explain his departure to his mother.

“For them all, their evidence was testament to the rawness which they still experience when recalling what you did to them.

“You have never before served a prison sentence. However, for such a catalogue of serious sexual offences against children over an extended period in my view only a custodial sentence is appropriate.

“You are now aged 83. Given your age and the passage of time with no further matter before the court, questions of rehabilitation and dangerousness recede.

“As regards old age, while it is a material mitigating consideration, this needs to be approached with a degree of caution. The prison estate is equipped to make adequate provision for an elderly offender.

“Viewed individually these offences would have attracted greater penalties. As they were separate matters the sentences for them will be consecutive to each other and I take into account, as well as the factors mentioned, the cumulative effect of a substantial sentence on someone of your age. That the resultant sentence remains lengthy is explained by the significant number of boys whom you indecently assaulted.

“On charge 5 I shall impose sentences of eight months’ imprisonment. On charge 8 I shall impose a sentence of one year’s imprisonment. On the remaining seven charges I shall impose sentences of four months’ imprisonment. Running consecutively to each other, these sentences total four years’ imprisonment.

“You will be subject to the sex offenders’ notification requirements for an indefinite period. The case will also be referred to the Scottish Ministers under section 7 of the Protection of Vulnerable Groups (Scotland) Act 2007.”