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Judge tells Crown to "get its act together" in choosing prosecution court

23 June 2017

A High Court judge has said the Crown should "get its act together" over whether serious cases are prosecuted in the sheriff court or the High Court, the Herald reports today.

Lord Uist was dealing with the case of John McKinlay, an inmate at Saughton Prison in Edinburgh, who was charged with assault to severe injury of another prisoner by throwing hot water from a kettle over another prisoner, causing serious eye burns.

Sheriff Norman Macfadyen at Edinburgh Sheriff Court, where the case was originally heard, decided that his powers, limited to a five year prison term, were inadequate and sent McKinlay to the High Court to be sentenced. 

After hearing that McKinlay had three previous High Court convictions for serious violence, including an extended sentence, and was serving six years for rape and other assaults on women, Lord Uist called for a full risk assessment report.

He commented that it was the second case he had heard that week "which should never have been in the sheriff court", and suggested there was something wrong with the marking of cases for where they would be prosecuted, adding: "The Crown should get its act together about the choice of forum for the prosecution of serious crime."

The other case concerned Alexander McIlravie, found guilty of assaulting a woman walking her dog, with intent to rape her. A full risk assessment was also called for in his case, leaving open the possibility of an order for lifelong restriction.

A Crown Office spokesperson said decisions on prosecution were taken independently by Crown counsel after a full consideration of the evidence and circumstances in each case.

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