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Friday 9 December 2016

Calls for retrial over Pacteau acquittal in sexual assault trial

Alexander Pacteau murdered student Karen Buckley
Alexander Pacteau murdered student Karen Buckley

Scotland's Crown prosecutors are being asked to review Alexander Pacteau's 2013 acquittal for sexual assault in light of the revelations in his conviction for the brutal murder of Karen Buckley.

Pacteau (21) was found not guilty of attacking and sexually assaulting a young Glasgow woman as she walked home from a 21st birthday party in 2011.

Last week, the former grammar schoolboy was jailed for a minimum of 23 years for the savage murder of Karen Buckley, a nurse and student from Mourneabbey, Co Cork.

Similarities

There was no evidence of a sexual assault in that case, but Pacteau attempted to dissolve the young Irish student's body in caustic soda in a bid to cover his tracks.

However, the 2011 complainant - and victims' rights groups - have commented on the similarities between the two cases.

In each case Pacteau approached a young woman walking home alone late at night and offered to help them.

In Karen's case he offered her a lift home in his Ford Focus car at 1am on April 12 last. In the case of the young Glasgow woman he offered to help her find a taxi. Both women were 24 years old.

The young Glasgow woman said she was devastated at the not guilty verdict in March 2013, but felt that the life sentence Pacteau received last week for Karen's murder offered her some form of justice.

The young woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, felt Pacteau posed such a threat that she wrote to Scottish authorities about him in 2013 after the not guilty verdict.

Now, leading Scottish justice and victims' rights groups have urged Crown prosecutors to review the 2013 acquittal with a view to staging a retrial.

One leading psychologist and anti-violence campaigner, Dr Mairead Tagg, said she felt there was a case for a retrial given the revelations.

Dr Tagg said that, in her opinion, Pacteau was "a very dangerous man".

"It seems this poor woman has not received justice. If the evidence is there, he should be retried," she said.

Scotland no longer strictly applies the 'double jeopardy' rule, which means a person cannot be retried for the same alleged offence.

The Double Jeopardy (Scotland) Act 2011, introduced three exceptions to the rule allowing prosecutors to press fresh charges: if there was an attempt to pervert the course of justice, if a person admitted his guilt after an acquittal and if new evidence has come to light.

It is under the latter category that the 2011 complainant and victims' rights groups hope that prosecutors will sanction a retrial.

Pacteau punched the air with delight after being found not guilty by a Glasgow High Court jury two years ago of sexually assaulting the young woman.

He had claimed during the trial he was gay - and that he felt sexual assaults were "the lowest of the low".

Pacteau also claimed to the jury that he would rather be charged with murder than sexual assault.

While none of the material which emerged during the Karen Buckley case would be admissible in any retrial, victims' rights groups and justice campaigners believe sufficient doubt has been cast on Pacteau's claims during the 2013 trial - most notably that he was gay - to warrant a new case.

Pacteau was acquitted despite witnesses reporting a woman's screams of terror - and one man telling police that he saw Pacteau tying his trousers near the scene. Pacteau claimed the woman attacked him.

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