Martin Hannan: Juries need all the evil facts

The conclusion of the World’s End murders case seems cut and dried. Angus Sinclair has finally been revealed as the serial rapist and murderer that so many of us knew he was, and he will die in jail.

No doubt the evil psychopath is even now plotting an appeal against his conviction and minimum 37-year sentence. He will want more days in court if only to get out of jail for a day or two. That is the way this cunning and devious swine thinks – as if the families of Helen Scott and Christine Eadie have not suffered enough at his hands.

The conviction is perfectly sound in my opinion. Imagine, however, that the police and Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland had not done a superb job in bringing a virtually watertight case against Sinclair, pictured right. Imagine if the jury had believed Sinclair’s account that his dead brother-in-law Gordon Hamilton did the murders. Imagine they had no idea about Sinclair’s character and decided that Hamilton was the real killer.

Sign up to our Opinion newsletter

Thankfully they saw through Sinclair’s lies, so imagine the relief they felt when his list of horrendous convictions for killing and raping young women and girls was read out in court.

For that is a major flaw in Scotland’s supposedly wonderful criminal justice system. A cruel and evil man with a record of dastardly crimes like Sinclair can sit in court secure in the knowledge that the prosecuting authorities dare not mention his past convictions.

Scottish journalists study a modicum of law to enable us to report on court proceedings. We learn immediately that the juries are masters of the facts and the judge is master of the law.

Yet juries are not entitled to know all the facts about an accused person. Sure, in minor cases the person on trial is entitled to have their criminal record shielded, but when someone like Sinclair comes before the court and the evidence against him is largely circumstantial, the law of the land should be changed to ensure that the jurors are given all the facts about the accused. Like the fact that he had carried out similar murders with an identical modus operandi before.

Scots law is not perfect and it is not immutable. Because of the clamour of the Scott and Eadie families backed by the public of Edinburgh and 
Scotland and, dare I say it, the media led by this newspaper, the World’s End murders were not allowed to stay unsolved, even after the case against Sinclair collapsed in 2007 – largely, I suspect, because the legal eagles involved knew that Sinclair’s litany of evil could not be produced in the trial.

The result was the Double Jeopardy (Scotland) Act 2011 which allowed the case against Sinclair to be re-tried, following the startling new DNA evidence which was key to the guilty verdict.

The act would not have 
happened without Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill being able to pilot the legislation through the Scottish Parliament. Pre-devolution, it just would not have happened. Westminster would not have made time for the changes.

We now can modernise Scots law, so let’s have new legislation which permits a person’s criminal record to be told to the jury in major cases where that record is a fact that jurors should know. Otherwise more people like Sinclair will walk free from court.

Axe parking fees

I SEE the parking attendants are now hammering disabled people who were used to parking on double yellow lines at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.

It means that even the disabled are falling foul of the ERI’s unfair and unjust policy – alone of all Lothian hospitals – of charging for parking.

The answer is simple: scrap the ERI parking charges now.

Exterminate these nuisance callers

A LOT of elderly and vulnerable people locally have been targeted with sophisticated scams by fraudsters pretending to work for financial institutions.

Only slightly above them in the ranks of disgusting pond life are those pestilential cold-callers claiming to help sort your PPI or your claim for an accident you might never have had. I consider these people to be virulent scum, and as a public service can I warn you not to even answer calls from these numbers – 0203 519 0692, 01422 323382 and +96723345, who all fall under my category of nuisance callers who should be exterminated.

Scene set for inquiry

I am still looking into the issue of Creative Scotland’s funding of the Royal Lyceum and Traverse Theatres, and it’s a foggy picture, to say the least. More later.

Sadly anti-Irish bigotry isn’t a thing of the past

ON Friday night, my brother and I hugely enjoyed Scotland beating the Republic of Ireland in the vital European Championship fixture, but in our separate pubs both of us heard shouted references to the Irish as “Fenian b*******”.

So don’t tell me that anti-Irish bigotry is a thing of the past in Scotland. And shame on Jim Murphy, would-be Scottish Labour leader, saying he’ll make a priority of repealing the Scottish Government’s Offensive Behaviour at Football Act, presumably so that some of his fellow Celtic supporters can keep on signing their pro-IRA songs.

This SNP member says give the anti-sectarian law a chance to work. And Labour, please make Murphy, pictured above, branch manager. He will never be First Minister.