Bonnyrigg child rapist’s ‘unduly lenient’ prison sentence increased on appeal

High Court of Justiciary.
High Court of Justiciary.

Appeal judges on Friday increased the jail sentence of a Bonnyrigg ex-care worker who carried out a catalogue of abuse and rape of vulnerable girls in local authority children’s unit.

Gordon Collins (60), who groomed youngsters before committing indecency offences against four underage girls and repeatedly raping one of them, was originally sentenced for six years but the Crown successfully appealed against the jail term, arguing it was unduly lenient.

Lord Brodie told the rapist via a video link to Glasgow’s Barlinnie prison: “As the trial judge observed in her sentencing remarks Collins committed an appalling series of offences involving the predatory sexual abuse of four vulnerable teenaged girls.”

“He was in a position of trust in relation to each complainer and the offences comprised a gross breach of trust. Although he had no analogous convictions, he has shown no remorse and continues to deny responsibility for the offences,” he said.

Lord Brodie, who heard the appeal with Lady Clark of Calton and Lord Turnbull, said: “The court is bound to hold that the sentence of six years falls outside the range of sentences reasonably open to the trial judge and is unduly lenient. A sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment would, in our opinion, be appropriate.”

The appeal judges quashed the original sentence imposed on Collins and substituted the higher prison term on the sex offender.

Collins was a residential care worker at Northfield Young Persons Unit and St Katherine’s Secure Unit, both in Edinburgh, when he committed the abuse between 1995 and 2006.

Lord Brodie said: “Each of the four victims was in some way troubled or had experienced a difficult upbringing.”

“The evidence disclosed that over a period of some 11 years he groomed each of the victims, gaining their trust and making them feel special, before sexually abusing them,” said the senior appeal judge.

Advocate depute Iain McSporran QC told judges at the Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh that the jail term was “far below” what it ought to have been for punishment and deterrence. He maintained that “a significantly more substantial custodial sentence was required”

The prosecutor said: “Over a period of 11 years he was abusing young children in his care.”

Mr McSporran said: “The contention of the Lord Advocate is the sentence, in all the circumstances, does not adequately reflect the gravity of the charges.”

The judges were told victims were vulnerable young people, often from troubled backgrounds, who were entitled to expect sanctuary.

Lord Turnbull said during the hearing: “Many of these children are removed precisely to provide protection.”

Collins, formerly of Wolsley Avenue, Bonnyrigg, had singled out victims for treats, outings and attention before exploiting them.

Lady Wise told him earlier this year as she sentenced him following a trial at the High Court in Edinburgh: “You have shown no remorse for your actions and continue to deny responsibility for the offences while your victims continue to live with the consequences.”

But the judge said she accepted that he had been assessed as a low risk of sexual re-offending due to his age.

Collins had denied a string of charges during his trial. His defence counsel Matt Jackson challenged the rape victim, now aged 26, that indecent assaults on her between March 2004 and February the following year did not happen. The woman replied: “It simply did happen and he knows that I know.”

His abuse began in 1995 with a 13-year-old girl whom he would kiss, touch and tell her she was beautiful as he plied her with cigarettes and sweets.

Another teenager was kissed, bitten in the neck and molested by him over a year during her time in a young persons unit.

The rape victim was assaulted by him after he went to her bedroom at night in one of the units where he worked.

In 2006 he cuddled, kissed and bit a 15-year-old girl on the neck and told her he loved her while molesting her at a secure unit.

One woman told his trial that she had begun to realise that Collins’ behaviour to her was wrong, but did not tell anyone at the time. She said: “Who was going to believe me, the troubled kid, against him, a senior member of staff?”

The assistant unit manager was interviewed by police in 2006 after one of the victims made a complaint, but at the time it was considered there was insufficient evidence to bring charges.

Another woman contacted police in 2011 and gave an account of what had happened to her. A cold case review was undertaken and police were given a list of all the female residents in the units at the time.

Collins told his trial that nothing had come of an inquiry into him instigated by social services in 1997 but he was later suspended after the diary of one of his victim’s was found.