... and you've been defeated, utterly. This morning, Sheriff Mackie sentenced the former MSP in Edinburgh Sheriff Court. Her sentencing statement is damning. Jailing Walker for the statutory maximum available to her, a full twelve months, Sheriff Kathrine Mackie criticised Walker's unrepentant, stubborn sense of his own victimisation. The scabrous, Vogon PR he secured from Iain Maciver after his conviction can't have helped. Mackie observed:
"I have also had regard to all that has been said on your behalf about the consequences in terms of reputation and financially, and to the terms of the reports that have been prepared. I have noted from those reports that you maintain your denial of any wrongdoing, and that you perceive yourself as the victim of various conspiracies, amongst your former wives, political opponents and the media.
While it cannot be denied that there has been considerable media attention in this case and issues thought to arise from it, even before the conclusion of the legal process, I share the opinion of the author of the Criminal Justice Social Work Report that your incredulity at being convicted of these offences and your perceived victimisation are further indications of your abdication of responsibility for your behaviour. I have also noted from the terms of the reports, as I noted during your evidence, what can only be described as contempt for your former wives and your stepdaughter and the derogatory manner in which you refer to them."
Ruling out enrolling Walker in the Caledonian men's programme as a non-custodial disposal, Sheriff Mackie continued:
"Having noted the extreme denial and minimisation of behaviour displayed to the authors of the reports prepared it is in my opinion unrealistic to believe that a programme designed to change men’s attitudes condoning domestic abuse has any prospect of success. There is no basis for believing that the intense media scrutiny combined with your public position has had any bearing on your willingness to be accountable for your behaviour or that this might change within the time frame of the Caledonian Programme, whatever time frame might be allowed. "
That the Sheriff felt it necessary to impose the statutory maximum penalty on Walker poses its own questions. Her statement doesn't contain a breath of criticism or comment on the Crown's choice of venue. As I blogged at the time of Walker's conviction, in Scotland, prosecutors generally have a free hand to select where and how people are tried before our courts. In Walker's case, he originally appeared to answer an indictment in solemn proceedings, and could have anticipated being tried by a jury, if he refused to plead guilty.
Reviewing the case, crown counsel decided to demote the case to summary proceedings in the sheriff court instead, reducing the court's sentencing powers from five years to one, if Walker was convicted. I very much doubt we'll be hearing any more from the Crown Office about the relevant factors considered by Counsel in reaching this decision, but serious questions remain unanswered. Just how many counts of domestic violence does a man have to be charged with to face a jury in this country? The regrettable answer, it seems, is more then twenty four.
Discussing the case with various folk, a number of people have suggested that Counsel's real rationale for shifting venue was suspicion of juries. Aren't they awfully unreliably, apt to be taken in by a plausible accused, a risk to the whole endeavour, a threat to conviction? Much better to try Walker before a reliable sheriff. Much less risky. I find this unconvincing.
Firstly, this seems a rather dubious basis for prosecution decision-making. Although a soup of factors push decision-making hither and thon, the idea that a senior Crown Office lawyer reduced the severity of the charge just because they were feart that they'd lose the case seems incredible. Yes, the case was historical. Yes, recollections fade. But if the Crown believed their witnesses were credible and reliable enough to persuade Sheriff Mackie of Walker's guilt, I struggle to accept the idea that they thought they weren't up to winning over fifteen ordinary punters.
Secondly, there really isn't an awfully lot of evidence suggesting that juries are significantly less likely to bring home convictions than professional benches. Certainly, you can find the odd Clive Ponting case, where juries disdain to apply the law to the facts in a fashion which legally-trained judges are unlikely to follow, but Walker's prosecution was hardly one of those cases.
I leave the last word to Sheriff Kathrine Mackie. Your can read her full sentencing statement here.