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HMA v James Torbett


Apr 25, 2023

At the High Court in Inverness today, Judge Andrew Cubie sentenced James Torbett to 3 years imprisonment after the offender was found guilty of sexual offences against a child.

In sentencing, Judge Cubie said:

“You have been found guilty by this jury of a catalogue of offences against a then 13 and 14 year old boy.

The evidence disclosed a cynical and deliberate targeting and grooming of this boy. He was not regarded as a good footballer. He was in fact unsuccessful at trial for the Celtic boys club age range team but according to his evidence, you intervened to invite him to return to training, and he was provided with the full kit, blazer, tie, trousers, kit bag despite never playing a competitive game for the age group team for which he was eligible.

It is reasonable to conclude that the interest you showed was entirely for your own selfish sexual ends cloaked in concern for this young boy. You preyed on his age, dependence, and his concerns about what would happen to the boys club, his confusion and his fear.  He was subjected to a catalogue of unwanted sexual conduct, extending over a period of, and occurring on a frequent basis. You had assessed his vulnerability and made him the object of your unwanted sexual attention until, it appears from the evidence, you turned your attention to another child.

The boys’ club, in the context of this trial, was shown at least partly as an elaborate front for your recruitment of victims, and provided cover for your interaction with and abusive actions toward this complainer.

It is clear that you have caused significant damage to him, blighting his life on a permanent basis and causing incalculable and irreparable harm; his victim impact statement mentions suicidal ideation and the break-up of his marriage

There are a number of matters to be balanced. I take onto account general sentencing guidelines, in particular that all relevant factors of a case must be considered including the seriousness of the offence, the impact on the victim and others affected by the case, and the circumstances of the offender; and that sentences should be no more severe than is necessary to achieve the appropriate purposes of sentencing in each case; and that sentencing may seek to protect the public from offending behaviour through preventative measures and by deterring offending behaviour. Sentencing may seek to punish the offender as a consequence of their criminal behaviour. Sentencing may act as an expression of society’s concern about and disapproval of the offending behaviour under consideration. Punishment and society’s disapproval are the dominant considerations in my sentencing

I also factor in that you are 75 years of age and have health difficulties. From the evidence, and now having seen your previous convictions, it is clear that you had been subject to court action in 1998. But that still represented 30 years of your avoiding both responsibility and consequences for your criminal conduct; and your victim has had to wait another 25 years for justice in his case.

Age can be a consideration in modifying any sentence imposed. But you got away with this offending for decades; the impact on the victim has been lifelong.  You moved on from this complainer and continued to offend, as well as enjoying many years of productive life.

And allegations of this nature often do not reach the stage of complaint because of threats or bribes made by offenders or the sheer power imbalance; you avoided investigation and prosecution for many years, thus denying the complainers justice and helping to perpetuate the harmful effects of their actions.  Whilst courts should of course make allowance for the factors of old age and health, these factors are not determinative. 

Any constructive contribution that you made to society has also to be balanced against the uninterrupted life you enjoyed, affording the opportunity to contribute to society, despite a history of offending over thirty years.

I take into account the facts that had these offences formed part of the earlier prosecutions, some modification may have been applied. But the law also recognises that complainers may for very good reasons take time to make complaints, and you have to bear the consequences to some extent at least of the timing of any complaints.

Taking into account your age, health, previous conditions and the circumstances of the current offence I consider that the appropriate sentence is one of 3 years imprisonment, that sentence to be served consecutive to the sentence which you are currently serving

You will in addition be subject to the notification requirements of the Sexual Offences Act 2003. You will be reported to the Scottish ministers to determine whether limitations should be imposed upon your ability to work with children and or protected adults.”

25 April 2023