HMA v GEORGE MCFARLANE CAMERON

At the High Court in Edinburgh Lord Pentland imposed an order for lifelong restriction on George McFarlane Cameron after he pled guilty to a sexual offence. The punishment part was fixed at four years.

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

“George McFarlane Cameron, you have pled guilty to a grave sexual crime committed against a boy aged 4 years. It is clear that the offence was the culmination of a sustained campaign, in which you groomed the child with a view to gaining his trust and also the trust of his mother. Your conduct throughout your relationship with the child and his mother was manipulative and devious.

The victim impact information before the court makes it clear that the offence has had a devastating effect on the child and his family.

It is extremely concerning that this is the third time on which you have appeared before the courts for crimes of sexual abuse of children. I note that your last conviction was in the High Court and that you were sentenced on that occasion to 5 years imprisonment. Clearly that lengthy sentence and the work done with you have not served to deter you from continuing to prey on children for the purposes of your own sexual gratification.

The comprehensive reports before the court make it clear that you have no real insight into the harm that your predatory behaviour causes to your victims and their families. Nor have you shown any remorse for what you have done.

This was undoubtedly an offence of the utmost gravity and the court must reflect that in its approach towards sentence.

From the reports it is also clear that you present a very high risk of causing harm to children if you are at liberty. In the circumstances, I am in no doubt that I must treat you as a dangerous and unrepentant paedophile, from whom the public must be protected.

The Court’s main responsibility, in these circumstances, must be to take whatever steps are available under the law to ensure public safety, particularly the safety of children.

In light of the nature and circumstances of the crime which you committed, your record and the risk factors identified, I am entirely satisfied that there is a likelihood that, if at liberty, you will seriously endanger the lives, or physical or psychological well-being, of members of the public at large. Accordingly, the requirements laid down by statute for the imposition of an order for lifelong restriction are made out.

The sentence I intend to impose constitutes a sentence of imprisonment for an indeterminate period. It means that you could only be released from prison in the event that the Parole Board could be satisfied that your release would not endanger public safety. There would have to be particularly strict licence conditions, continuing risk management and close supervision of you.

The law requires me to set a minimum term of imprisonment (referred to as the punishment part of your sentence). This is the minimum period which you must serve before the Parole Board can, in the future, even consider your case. I wish to stress that this is a minimum period and it should not be thought by you or anyone that it in any sense reflects my view of when you should be released; in the circumstances of the present case it most certainly does not do so. Under the law passed by Parliament, whether and when you may be released (after the expiry of the minimum period) is a matter, as I have said, for the Parole Board. Speaking for myself and having regard to the detailed information provided to me about you and your pattern of serious offending, I consider that, in view of the high level of risk you present to the public, you are very likely to remain in prison for many years and may never be released.

The Appeal Court has clarified the approach which a judge must take in setting the punishment part of this type of life sentence and it is, of course, my duty to follow that approach. I must start by considering what would have been an appropriate determinate sentence for your offence, ignoring the period of confinement necessary for the protection of the public. I must then make allowance for the rules on early release. Finally, I require to consider what discount is appropriate to reflect the stage in the proceedings at which you indicated your intention to plead guilty and the circumstances in which that indication was given.

In the present case, had I been imposing a determinate sentence after trial it would have been an extended sentence, in respect of which the custodial term would have been 12 years and the extension part 5 years. The public protection element would have been met by the extension period imposed for that specific purpose. The starting point for the calculation is, therefore, 12 years.

I then have to take account of the early release rules. This means that the period of 12 years falls to be reduced by 50 per cent to 6 years.

Finally, to reflect your plea of guilty tendered under section 76 of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995, I allow a discount of 2 years. This takes the minimum term to one of 4 years.

I reiterate that the punishment part must be understood as a bare minimum, which I am obliged by statute to calculate, using the process I have just explained.

Your life sentence will be backdated to 19 March 2012 when you first appeared in court in connection with the present offence.

In addition, you will continue to be a registered sex offender for life”.