Former Celtic Boys Club manager Frank Cairney will have to wait to see if he is cleared of a sex attack on a teenage boy because of a failure to reveal the victim’s crimes of dishonesty ahead of his trial.
Cairney (84) is currently serving a four year jail sentence after he was convicted of nine charges of abusing young footballers.
But today (thurs) he sought to have one of the charges overturned in a conviction appeal in a bid to have his sentence reduced.
Judges at the Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh reserved their decision in the case after the Lord Justice General Lord Carloway, who heard the case with Lord Drummond Young and Lord Turnbull, said the principle involved in Cairney’s legal challenge had the potential to have wider implications. They will give a decision at a later date, yet to be fixed.
Defence solicitor advocate Simon Collins said that failure to disclose previous convictions of one of Cairney’s accusers from England had led to a miscarriage of justice.
Advocate depute Alex Prentice QC told the judges that the case has raised an issue that is being looked into.
He said: “I accept had the Crown known of the record which is now known about this would have been disclosed to the defence, given that it demonstrates dishonesty.”
“The Crown does not routinely seek to acquire information from other jurisdictions unless there is some reason to consider there might be such information,” he said.
“I accept, in this case, the fact of residency in another jurisdiction would be, at least, an indicator that a check ought to be made,” he said.
Mr Prentice added: “This is a practise that has evolved and needs to be re-examined.”
The victim of the single charge under appeal was abused by Cairney in 1974 when he was aged 15.
Following Cairney’s trial at Hamilton Sheriff Court it was discovered that the victim had acquired previous convictions in England, including obtaining property by deception.
Mr Collins said: “The Crown were asked specifically about previous convictions. They were aware the complainer resided in England.”
He argued that it was information that could have been found by accessing systems available to it “without significant inquiry”.
Mr Collins maintained that there was a duty on the Crown to obtain the information and disclose it to the defence.
He said it turned out that there were previous convictions for obtaining property by deception where the particular complainer was to be challenged by the defence on his credibility and the jury invited not to believe him at all.
Mr Collins said the man was the most forcefully challenged of the witnesses who testified against Cairney, of Viewpark, in Lanarkshire during the trial before Sheriff Daniel Kelly QC which led to him being jailed in February.
He said: “It was put to him he never played a single game for Celtic Boys Club.”
Mr Collins said that on charges featuring the other victims the jury returned unanimous guilty verdicts, but with this complainer it was a majority verdict.
He argued that there would be “a real possibility” that the jury in considering the credibility of the complainer, if the previous convictions had been disclosed, would have returned a different verdict.
Mr Prentice maintained that no miscarriage of justice had occurred and when the evidence of the other victims was taken into account in a case based on mutual corroboration there was no reason to suppose the outcome would have been any different.