HMA v Shaun Borrett

At the High Court in Edinburgh today, 29 March 2019, Lord Beckett imposed an Order for Lifelong Restriction on Shaun Borrett with a punishment part of 7 years and 6 months, after the offender was convicted of the serious sexual abuse of nine different children over a period of 24 years.

On sentencing, Lord Beckett made the following statement in court:

“I have listened to the submissions in mitigation of your lawyer and I recognise that you have no previous convictions of any relevance and you have a reasonably consistent record of employment throughout your adult life. I have considered the social work report and the risk assessment report and all of the points made on your behalf.

You continue to deny that you are guilty, but I proceed on the emphatic verdicts of a jury who listened carefully to all of the evidence. You have been found guilty of an extraordinary campaign of serious sexual abuse of nine different children over a period of 24 years from 1994 when you were 18 to 2018 when you were almost 42. The children were entrusted to your care at the time when you abused them which is an aggravating feature of this case. They were all very young, aged between 5 and 14.

On charge 1 you persisted in sexually abusing a younger boy over a period of three years causing lifelong difficulties for your victim.

Charge 2 demonstrates how you were opportunistic in finding a girl to abuse and then able to engineer the circumstances in which it could happen. The circumstances of this charge demonstrate that you were willing to take significant risks in order to pursue your perverted desires for gratification.

On charges 3 and 4 you raped and sexually abused a girl under 12 on many occasions over a period of years, often taking advantage of her being asleep to do so.

Charges 5, 6, 7 and 8 involve your perpetrating serious sexual abuse and rape on two different boys aged between 8 and 10.

Charges 9, 10, 12 and 13 involved you sexually abusing four different young boys between 2015 and 2018. You raped one of them when he was aged only 8 or 9. Your conduct in charge 10 was grossly corrupting and depraved. In charge 13 you exploited the desperately sad family circumstances in which a boy of 7 and 8 found himself when you sexually abused him.

You have shown no insight and no remorse for your actions.

For such a prolonged course of criminal conduct there is no alternative to a substantial period of imprisonment to punish you, to mark the community’s condemnation of such behaviour, to seek to deter you and others who would behave in this way and in particular to protect the public from you.

Considering the prolonged pattern of serious sexual offending against children pursued relentlessly over so many years and having regard to the terms of the reports before me, I am particularly concerned to ensure that I protect the public from you.

I note that you exploited children who were vulnerable in a variety of ways. You enticed them to your house by spending significant sums of money on games, particularly play stations and X-boxes. You gave them sweets and treats to induce them to stay and to submit to your sexual abuse. You used alcohol and cigarettes as inducements and to dull the senses of the children you were abusing. You exercised psychological coercion in these and more threatening ways to keep all of this going and to prevent the children reporting you to the authorities. You were highly manipulative of the children and their families. 

The risk assessment report informs me that you sought to foster one of the complainers but that you also sought to be foster parent to a child generally. Social workers ensured that this could not happen. However, you sought to manipulate and at times perhaps you outmanoeuvred social workers. It is reported that they felt that you knew exactly what to say to professionals in order to be able to continue offending.

I have fully considered the terms of the risk assessment report. It concludes that you caused significant psychological damage to individuals who were already vulnerable due to their family backgrounds and experiences.  A number of risk factors are noted which include: sexual deviance; lack of self-awareness; trauma; problems with both intimate and non-intimate relationships; problems with stress/coping; minimisation/denial of your offending.

The risk assessor considered that the nature, seriousness and pattern of your behaviour indicates a propensity to seriously endanger the lives, physical or psychological well-being of the public at large and you have characteristics which are problematic, persistent and pervasive.  However she considered that there is reason to believe that you may be amenable to change and manageable with appropriate measures. She concluded that you present a medium risk and recommends the making of an extended sentence with a very long prison term to be followed by a long period of supervised release. I must consider that professional opinion with great respect and care. However, the law places the ultimate responsibility on the judge to determine if the criteria are met for the making of an order for lifelong restriction. I consider it to be significant that your serious sexual offending against children began when you were a young man and has endured into middle age.

I have to determine if it is probable that the nature of, or the circumstances of the commission of, the offences of which you have been found guilty either in themselves or as part of a pattern of behaviour are such as to demonstrate that there is a likelihood that you, if at liberty, will seriously endanger the lives, or physical or psychological well-being, of members of the public at large. I have to make that assessment by considering the position now but also looking into the future to consider what the position would be on your release from prison and the conclusion of your being subject to licence conditions, which in this case would be the termination of the extension period of an extended sentence. I recognise that you would still be subject to notification requirements.

You are unwilling to undertake treatment focussed on your offending. The risk assessor notes that you are willing to undertake trauma therapy and perhaps cognitive therapy and she can identify a route by which such therapies may lead you to a point when you would be willing to undergo offence-focussed work, but it can be no more than a possibility as she acknowledges. There is reference to protective factors in the risk assessment report, but I find it difficult to be confident that there are many effective protective factors in your case.

There are measures which can be put in place in prison and on your release and whilst subject to an extended sentence but a point would come when they would end. They may offer some limitation on the scope for you to offend, for example by restricting and monitoring your connections. However, you have shown yourself to be a risk-taker, a manipulator, a psychological coercer and a serious and persistent sexual abuser of children over a period of 24 years, during some of which period social workers were aware of your interest in children. You were able to shield your activities from them as you acted on your propensity for serious sexual abuse of children. Not all of the members of your family consider you to be a risk to children as the risk assessor notes. She can identify scenarios in which you could offend again. She notes that you can engage people and have demonstrated that you could be so plausible in your presentation that people did not perceive you as the threat which you were. 

Having regard to the evidence I heard in the trial, all of the information in the reports and the submissions made on your behalf, I consider that even with all of the measures which could be put in place during the whole currency of both parts of an extended sentence, and noting the age you would be at the end of all that, it remains more likely than not, meaning probable, that you will offend in this way again, seriously endangering at least the psychological wellbeing of members of the public at large.

Having reached that conclusion I must make an order for lifelong restriction.

Parliament prescribes how I should fix the punishment part which is the period of time which must pass before you can apply for parole.

Taking account of all of the crimes of which you were convicted on this indictment, had I not been imposing an order for lifelong restriction, I would have imposed a custodial term of 18 years as part of an extended sentence.

I am required by Parliament to ignore any period of confinement which may be necessary for the protection of the public and to determine the part of that period of imprisonment which would represent an appropriate period to satisfy requirements of retribution and deterrence. That period is 15 years. I will follow the normal approach suggested in the legislation and reduce that period by one half to take account of the effects of early release. Accordingly the punishment part of your order for lifelong restriction will be 7 years and 6 months which is backdated to 6 April 2018.

The sentence imposed is not a sentence of imprisonment for seven and a half years, it is an order for lifelong restriction which is a sentence of imprisonment for an indeterminate period, which shares some characteristics with a life sentence. You will not be eligible to apply for parole until the punishment part has elapsed.

It does not follow that you will then be released. You will only be released from prison when the Parole Board considers that it is no longer necessary for the protection of the public that you continue to be held in prison.

The Clerk of Court will notify the Scottish Ministers of the details of your convictions so that they may determine if you are to be included on the list of persons unsuitable to work with young people. You will be subject to notification requirements indefinitely.