HMA v Paul O’Neill

At the High Court in Edinburgh today, 4 April 2019, Lord Arthurson sentenced Paul O’Neill to five years’ imprisonment, after the offender was convicted of sexual assault of young boys while volunteering in a children’s home.

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

“Paul O’Neill, on 11 March 2019 at Glasgow High Court you were convicted after trial of, first, a charge libelling attempted sodomy against a young boy who was then between 6 and 7 years of age; second, a charge libelling the use by you of lewd, indecent and libidinous practices and behaviour towards the same child; and, third, another charge libelling lewd, indecent practices and behaviour, in which your victim was another boy, who was then between 9 and 11 years of age. You yourself were at the time of the index offending, a volunteer worker at a children’s home in Glasgow, and were aged between 16 and 17 during the period of the libel in each of the charges. You were therefore in a position of trust in respect of these children, which, despite your own age at the time, is a significant aggravating feature of this case, as is, of course, the age of your victims.

The background report which has been prepared for today’s sentencing hearing contains the author’s opinion to the effect that your offending involved a level of planning and further that you have been deemed to present a medium risk of further sexual reoffending. My own view is that this assessment does not accurately reflect your level of risk, which, having heard the trial and considered all of the material before me, I assess as low.

You appear before the Court as a first offender who is now 58 years of age. You have lived to date, excepting of course the serious criminal conduct which has been established in this case, a highly pro-social life, having an unblemished record in your very lengthy career in social work, and I appreciate that this conviction in these circumstances, in and of itself, must represent for you what can only be described as a catastrophic outcome to that long career. I have listened with great care to the submissions advanced in mitigation this morning on your behalf by your senior counsel, and propose in selecting a disposal in this case to take into account all of the points which she has made concerning in particular your personal circumstances, family support and work record, to which I have already referred.

Nevertheless, it is plain on any view that offending of the gravity set out in the charges before the Court requires in your case the imposition of a substantial custodial sentence, as the Court holds you to account for these crimes. Accordingly, having considered and weighed all of the relevant factors which I have mentioned, I now sentence you on this indictment as follows.  On charges one, two and three, on an in cumulo basis, you will serve a period of five years imprisonment, backdated to 11 March 2019, being the date of your initial remand in custody in respect of these offences.

Finally, as a result of this disposal you will now be subject to the notification requirements set out in the Sexual Offences Act 2003 for an indefinite period.”