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Last Updated: Monday, 10 September 2007, 17:34 GMT 18:34 UK
Lord Clarke's decision assessed
BBC Scotland lawyer Alistair Bonnington assesses Judge Lord Clarke's decision to throw out the prosecution case against World's End murder accused Angus Sinclair.

Lord Clarke was undoubtedly correct this morning in withdrawing the three charges against Angus Sinclair from the jury in the High Court in Edinburgh.

Lord Clarke
Lord Clarke threw the case out due to insufficient evidence

Sinclair had been charged with the abduction, rape and murder of Helen Scott and Christine Eadie.

He had lodged a special defence of incrimination claiming that his now deceased brother-in-law, Gordon Hamilton, had committed the rapes.

The only material evidence the Crown appeared to have was DNA evidence indicating that there had been contact between Sinclair and one of the girls. In law this is insufficient to put any of the three charges before the jury.

For abduction to be proved there has to be evidence of a forced removal of an individual from one place to another.

In other words it has to be shown that the individuals went somewhere against their will. There was no evidence of this.

The crime of rape consists of the penetration of the woman by a man against the woman's will. Again there was no evidence showing Sinclair to have raped either of the victims.

At the very best the Crown had evidence of some form of sexual contact between the accused and one of the deceased girls. But that is not enough to convict him of rape.

'Incrimination defence'

For murder to be proved against Sinclair it would have to be shown that he killed the two girls.

Although there can be little doubt that they were murdered there was nothing to bring this home to Sinclair.

More generally, this last point was the overall problem with the case.

Even if it could have been proved to the court that the girls had been abducted, raped and murdered that in itself would not be enough to convict Sinclair on any of these charges.

He had to be shown (by corroborated evidence) to be guilty of committing these crimes. The Crown was miles away from proving this.

Alan Mackay
Advocate depute Alan Mackay led the prosecution team

Even if the evidence from the Crown had been infinitely better they still had to overcome the problem of Sinclair's defence of incrimination.

It is difficult to see how the Crown could have persuaded the jury that they must dismiss the incrimination defence on the charge of rape.

However on the facts of this case that eventuality did not arise.

There will undoubtedly be concern in the Scottish legal profession that this is an example of a "political" prosecution.

Since the lord advocate has become a cabinet member of the Scottish Executive/Scottish Government there has been a body of opinion amongst those practising at the criminal bar in Scotland that decisions are sometimes made by the Lord Advocate/Crown Office on the basis of what is politically appropriate rather than solely on the grounds of what is legally correct.

For the Crown in Scotland to bring cases before our criminal courts which have no prospect of proving is a waste of everyone's time, a waste of public money and a highly distressing experience for the close family of the victims who died in these tragic events 30 years ago.

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