Alesha MacPhail: Read judge’s full statement in jailing ‘remorseless’ Aaron Campbell

Judge Lord Matthews revealed that Alesha MacPhail’s killer Aaron Campbell admitted trying not to laugh during his trial as he sentenced the teenager to a minimum term of 27 years in prison today.

In outlining his reasoning for the punishment, Lord Matthews referred to the fact that Campbell had finally confessed to raping and murdering Alesha (something he denied throughout the trial) in interviews with psychologists and social workers.

However, the details of those interviews were truly shocking, including the revelation that Campbell had to strive to stop himself from laughing throughout the emotional trial.

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Read Lord Matthews’ full comments on Campbell, whom he accused of a ‘staggering lack of remorse’, below.

Aaron Campbell.
Aaron Campbell.

“You were found guilty of the abduction, rape and murder of Alesha McPhail, a 6 year old child. Merely stating that fact is horrific enough but the circumstances surrounding these vile crimes and the manner of their commission have quite rightly aroused revulsion and disbelief that these sorts of things could happen.

“Alesha had just arrived on Bute to spend a holiday with her father and grandparents and had gone to bed apparently safe in her own room. No doubt she was looking forward to what the next few weeks had in store. Her father and his parents would have enjoyed every minute of it while her mother and her family would have been counting down the days till they saw her smiling face again.

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“Meanwhile you attended a party at your own home, consumed alcohol and then, on your account, to which I will return, went off in search of cannabis.

“You went into the house and then her bedroom. You removed her from there and took her to a secluded spot where you violated and murdered her in the most brutal fashion. The details of that were revealed in the evidence and I do not intend to go over them again.

“It is difficult to imagine the distress which her family must have suffered, not only when she went missing but when the awful news came in that she had been found dead. That distress can only have been intensified, if that was possible, by their finding out the extent of what you did to her, not only in the weeks and months immediately afterwards but in the course of the trial.

“I have read statements by her parents and grandparents in which they have tried to express their loss and the emptiness which greets them every day. Just as I know that no sentence which I can pass will alleviate their anguish, so I know that mere words are poor reflections of it.

“The effect on the island community was profound. Many of them rallied round to help in the search and the effect on those who saw Alesha in the woods will be long lasting. I have never before seen a police officer almost break down in the witness box, so affected was he by the sight.

“The contrast between them and you could not be more vivid.

“Your attitude was clearly demonstrated by the evidence that you posted an image of yourself in a mirror while making a joke that you had found where the murderer was hiding. The arrogance and callousness of that is breathtaking.

“Thanks to the dedication of the police and forensic scientists, ably assisted by members of the public, such as those who came forward when they found articles of your clothing on the shore, you were eventually brought to justice.

“Despite the overwhelming evidence against you, you did not plead guilty but elected to go to trial. That was your right and I do not increase your sentence because of it. However it is symptomatic of your staggering lack of remorse. Not once during the trial did I detect a flicker of emotion from you and that was also the experience of the professionals who interviewed you for the purposes of the reports, to which I will turn shortly.

“Your defence was one of incrimination of a young woman Toni-Louise McLachlan and you gave evidence in support of it. It was a cruel travesty of the truth which was understandably reported widely in the media and left her open to suspicion at the very least and quite possibly hatred, all of which was due to your perverted machinations. I am very grateful to Mr McConnachie who today made it clear that she was completely innocent.

“Mr McConnachie has said all that could be said on your behalf, entirely in keeping with the exemplary way the trial was conducted on both sides of the bar. All matters of fact which could reasonably be agreed were agreed and the issues were well focussed and laid before the jury.

“As I said to the jury after they returned their verdict, Counsel do not make up defences but present the case on the basis of their instructions. It is obvious what your instructions were and your evidence was entirely in keeping with them, albeit it was a tissue of lies.

“It does not go too far therefore when I say that I was shocked when I saw the contents of the Criminal Justice Social Work report and the report from Dr Macpherson, the consultant forensic clinical psychologist.

“Each of these reports contains clear admissions by you of your guilt.

“Not only that, and this is a terrible thing to say of one so young, but they paint a clear picture of a cold, callous, calculating, remorseless and dangerous individual.

“I do not intend to go into every detail of the reports or of your admissions since much of it would, I think, be distressing and much of it merely confirms some of the evidence which was led. However, I think it right that the public, and more particularly her family, be given some flavour of the contents.

“Dr Macpherson noted that you presented your account in a matter-of-fact manner notable for the absence of any emotions. He recorded that you told him that in the 12 months prior to the murder you entertained thoughts of “doing something excessive”, including rape.

“Your account in brief was that you had been drinking but wanted cannabis and decided to break into the house to get some. You took a kitchen knife because you wanted to protect yourself but having gained entry you left the house and disposed of it. You returned to the house and entered Alesha’s bedroom.

“Amongst other things Dr Macpherson records that you told him that you had consumed one and a half bottles of wine between 8pm and 8.30 pm but that you did not feel intoxicated, although you told the social worker that you still felt the effects of it. You were not under the influence of any illicit substances.

“He records that when you saw Alesha your reaction, according to you, was as follows:

“‘... A moment of opportunity... At any other time in life, murder wouldn’t have been the conclusion. If I was a year younger I don’t think I would have done it. ... All I thought about was killing her once I saw her.’

“You told both Dr Macpherson and the social worker in some detail what you did. You said that Alesha was drowsy and became a bit more awake when you went outside. At one point she asked who you were and where you were going. You said you were a friend of her father’s and that you were taking her home. You gave her your top because she was cold. I will not go into the horrific and cold blooded details of what you said you did to her but you explained that after you murdered Alesha you threw your bloodstained clothing into the sea, had a shower and then went back where you left her to retrieve your phone.

“Dr Macpherson reports that you told him that over the next few days you were totally unconcerned other than to be mildly amused that the Police had not arrested you.

“Two other aspects of his report are worth mentioning.

“The first is that you told him that at points during the trial it took everything to stop you laughing and you had to zip your mouth

“The second is that you volunteered that you were quite satisfied with the murder.

“According to all of the reports, you are not suffering from any mental health disorder and indeed you are not suffering from any syndrome or disorder of any kind.

“On the other hand, you are completely lacking in victim empathy, the social worker noting your cold, calculating manner.

“The only sentence I can impose on you is detention without limit of time. In addition you will be subject to the notification provisions of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 for an indefinite period.

“However, I also have to specify a period which must pass before you can apply for release on parole. Whether you will ever be released will be for others to determine but as matters stand a lot of work will have to be done to change you before that could be considered. It may even be impossible.

“The period I select is known as the punishment part of the sentence and its purpose is to satisfy the requirements of retribution and deterrence. The Parole Board will deal in due course with the protection of the public.

“I have taken account of the circumstances of the offences, the contents of the reports and everything said on your behalf.

“I am conscious that you are a child. In sentencing children it has to be borne in mind that they are not yet fully rounded, mature human beings. A child’s best interests are a primary consideration and the desirability of the child’s reintegration into society must also be taken into account.

“However, the weight to be given to the various sentencing considerations will depend on a number of factors including the age of the child and all the circumstances of the case.

“The nature of these appalling offences and what I have read in the reports make it clear to me that reintegration and rehabilitation, while these are important considerations, are remote possibilities and neither your best interests nor anyone else’s will be served by a speedy return to the community.

“Nonetheless, the punishment part will not be as long as it would have been had you been an adult.

“Your sentence will run from 6 July 2018. You will be detained without limit of time and I fix the punishment part at 27 years.”