Convicted killer and sex attacker walks free after appeal judge deems 5-year-old girl incapable of giving meaningful evidence
7 Dec 2013 07:57
Mohammed Akram, 53, was sentenced to life after indecently assaulting a four-year-old girl during a New Year’s Day party but has been freed by appeal judges.
A convicted killer and sex offender who got a life sentence for molesting a four-year-old girl has been freed by appeal judges.
A trial heard claims that Mohammed Akram, 53, sneaked into the little girl’s bedroom and indecently assaulted her during a New Year’s Day party.
But it was ruled yesterday that the conviction was unsafe after appeal judges said the child became distracted during a two-day stint as a witness.
Akram had protested his innocence since the allegation against him was first made.
Giving evidence at his trial via CCTV, the girl, then aged five, said a man had “touched her tuppy”.
Appeal court judge Lord Eassie, sitting with Lords Bracadale and Wheatley, watched footage of the child’s marathon court ordeal. They said her attention wandered, she tried to leave the room and refused to answer questions.
Lord Eassie said: “By the second day, if not earlier, the child had been rendered incapable of engaging meaningfully with the process of giving evidence.”
The judge said because of that, the girl could not be questioned properly by Akram’s lawyer.
But what finally gained Akram his freedom was the way trial judge Lord Brodie gave the jury instructions on how to consider DNA evidence and whether it backed up the little girl’s story.
Advocate depute Iain McSporran, for the Crown, conceded that it was “a material misdirection” which amounted to a miscarriage of justice.
After he was initially convicted of indecently assaulting the girl on New Year’s Day in 2011, it was revealed that Akram had been caged for five years in 1979 for culpable homicide.
In 2003, he was jailed for eight years for a sex attack on a 16-year-old student and he was still on licence at the time of the 2011 allegation. Lord Brodie judged Akram to be a danger to the public and handed him a lifelong restriction order.
He ordered Akram to serve a minimum of one year but warned that he would stay in jail until the parole board agreed he no longer posed a threat.
After Akram was freed yesterday, Children 1st chief executive Anne Houston said: “The failure of the authorities to act in the best interests of a very young victim and to consider how she might have been better supported to give her best evidence has undoubtedly led to this outcome. Such a young child should never have been expected to give evidence over two days.”
Scottish Labour justice spokes-man Graeme Pearson said: “Cases like these try the public’s patience. If the key issue was a misdirection, then there is nothing to be lost in a retrial.
“In addition, the expectation of a five-year-old participating in a two-day examination for the court is unreasonable.”
Tam Baillie, Scotland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People, said: “Expecting a very young child to go through the gruelling process of giving evidence for an extended period of time is inappropriate.
“We must look at the best ways to ensure that the evidence of very young children can be heard and taken into account.”
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