THIS is one of the most difficult pieces I have ever written – for it centres on my youngest daughter and the sexual offence she was subjected to earlier this year.

As a father what I have to write is incredibly painful for my daughter, myself and our family – and as a journalist I face perhaps the biggest challenge I have ever had to confront in terms of my objectivity as a reporter.

This article would never have been written unless my daughter Caitie asked me to write it, and had the courage to waive her anonymity as a victim of a sexual offence. My daughter’s story raises serious public interest issues. What happened to Caitie asks questions about how the police investigate sexual offences, whether we should believe claims from our government and police that dealing with sexual offences is a top priority, and also how employers protect young women who are victims of sexual crime.

The story begins on July 20. My wife and I were on holiday overseas. Caitie, then 20, was enjoying her university summer break. She has a part-time job working at a concession stand at Silverburn shopping centre on the south side of Glasgow. We live four miles away, and Caitie being an active young woman who likes to walk to work, slung her bag over her shoulder and set off.

When she got near to the Kennishead area of the city, a young man, about the same age, approached her from a path overgrown by trees, circled her – seemingly to ensure there was no-one else around – and tried to lure her into woods. He exposed himself to her and began masturbating. She took to her heels and ran. On the way, a passerby comforted her as she was visibly distressed. She made it to work and called the police.

The problems with how Caitie, as a victim of a sexual offence, was dealt with begin now. An hour and a half after the incident, the police spoke briefly to Caitie at work. Caitie rang my wife and me in Crete and told us what had happened – we were distraught and wanted to fly home immediately, but Caitie would not hear of it. I remember sitting by the pool that evening – thousands of miles away from my child – and crying with sorrow, anger and helplessness. But, as my wife said at the time, the police will deal with it – in this day and age they’d have the offender arrested quickly. I thought she was right – that this type of offence would be taken seriously.

We were very wrong. The police didn’t deal with it. When there was still no word from the police a few days after the initial discussion at work, Caitie, her boyfriend and a group of other young people used Facebook to find and identify the offender. Caitie rang the police asking to pass on details of what had been discovered online. The police made no attempt to take the information from her.

Two weeks after the offence, Caitie was at work, when she saw the offender in the middle of the shopping mall staring at her. Panicked, scared, feeling vulnerable and threatened, but confident that she could now have the man arrested, she called the police. The boyfriend of one of Caitie’s female colleagues confronted the offender in order to keep him in the centre. The security team from Silverburn arrived and so did the police.

Police attention now turned to the fact that the offender had some sort of mental health problem. He was allowed to go home, and Caitie assumed he would later be interviewed and charged. The offender was never interviewed, however, and has still not been charged – nor, it seems, will he ever be prosecuted.

After many phone calls to the police to find out what was happening, Caitie was eventually told that officers believed the man was unfit to be interviewed. They told her that the offender’s family would not cooperate and come to an interview with him. Officers also said that they could not locate the offender’s social worker, or find an appropriate adult to accompany him to an interview. There was no doubt that the young man was the offender.

Caitie was told that as there was to be no interview there would be no charge, and as there was no charge there would be no conviction.

Between the time of the offence and last weekend, the offender stalked Caitie at work up to 10 times – walking past her place of employment, staring at her, circling her, waiting around and watching her. Last weekend was breaking point for her. The offender arrived at Silverburn again and walked around the concession stand where she works three times.

Throughout this period, Caitie spoke to the security team and members of management at Silverburn asking for help. She was told the man was not deemed a risk, that he was a member of the public and a "welcome shopper", and so allowed into the shopping centre. To Caitie it felt that the rights of a man – accused of a sexual offence against her – to shop at Silverburn outweighed her right to protection. She even told me one older male senior member of staff laughed in her face when she was distressed.

With no protection from the shopping centre, and no action from the police, my daughter was left with two courses of action: go to the police ombudsman, the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner, or go to the press. Her thinking was this: “I still want to give the police the opportunity to act properly, so I will tell my story. If nothing happens after I speak publicly about it, then I will lodge a formal complaint.”

I’ve been a journalist for 27 years – from crime reporter to newspaper editor – so I was able to spell out clearly to Caitie what going public would mean. I cautioned her against it, in fact. But she was adamant, and felt that if her father wrote about what happened then she would be safe. I told her I would do my very best to keep her safe. As a family we talked the matter over last weekend.

Caitie had made up her mind, her mother supported her, her boyfriend of three years also supported her. I warned Caitie that there are always risks about speaking publicly, but also told her that many times during my career I had seen people only achieve justice because they spoke publicly. Caitie’s older sibling was uncomfortable with the issue being aired in public, and remains concerned about this article being written – something which I respect, understand and share worry over.

On Wednesday, two days after I began asking questions of the authorities about the conduct of the investigation, police came to speak to Caitie at work, reiterating that the offender would not be interviewed, but also adding that they only had a record of two incidents of stalking, when in fact they had been informed around six times.

The case flags up a number of public interest issues. They are:

1 Why did the police not search for the offender once the original complaint was made – and why did the police not seek to act on Facebook information identifying the offender which Caitie and others gathered? Should victims of sexual crime do their own detective work?

2 The police only spoke to the offender after he approached Caitie at her place of work – two weeks after the offence. Is there not a risk that other offences took place within that time? The crimes of sexual offenders only escalate over time – is there not a risk that this man has reoffended in the three months since the offence or will reoffend?

3 Whether or not the offender has a mental health problem, some action must be taken, either by the criminal justice system or the mental health system when an offence – especially a violent or sexual offence – has taken place. Why has this not happened?

4 Why were his family not compelled to accompany him for an interview?

5 Why can the police not locate his social worker?

6 Why can the police not locate an appropriate adult?

7 Why was no action taken after numerous incidents of stalking by a man who carried out a sexual offence? Is this not a case of a victim being endangered and victimised all over again?

8 Are the police not accurately logging allegations of stalking by young women?

9 The Scottish government and police tell the public that dealing with sexual offences is a number one priority. Is it? If sexual offences at the lower end of the scale are dealt with like this, what does that say about the investigation of more serious sexual offences?

10 Why is an employer like Silverburn leaving a young female member of staff who has been the victim of a sexual offence with the feeling that her concerns are not being taken seriously? Why are they not protecting staff from stalking at work?

Then we must come to the offender himself. My daughter is a strong, independent and intelligent young woman – and she wants to see this man brought to justice. But she is also wise enough to realise that what has happened also presents a risk to the offender.

If he is not dealt with – either by the criminal justice system, or the mental health system – then he could well reoffend. Stopping him now might not just save other victims, but halt a path which could end in him being detained for a long time. Does a man with a mental health problem not deserve treatment if he is clearly a danger to himself and others?

When he was first spotted at Silverburn, there was a very real risk that the offender could have been assaulted. As I explained earlier, the boyfriend of a female colleague of Caitie, stopped the offender and attempted to physically restrain him. The situation could have easily escalated. It is not unknown for sexual offenders to be the victims of violent crime themselves. Dozens of workers in Silverburn know this young man is a sex offender. It should be asked: are the police protecting him sufficiently?

At Caitie’s request, I raised my concerns with the authorities – including justice minister Humza Yousaf and the police – and you can read what they, and others, thought about her case in The Herald tomorrow.

After I spoke to Yousaf and others, the police came to visit Caitie at our house one last time, and again told her that because of the offender’s apparent mental health issues there would be no further action from law enforcement. Caitie was also told by police that Silverburn in turn would be unlikely to ban the offender from the shopping centre as he was not going to be interviewed, charged or prosecuted.

In tears, Caitie said: "This is awful. Trying to get any form of justice or protection is pointless. I feel as if what happened to me simply does not matter. My faith in the police is destroyed."

I’m lucky that as a journalist I can get the justice minister, and other figures of authority, on the telephone and tell them what is going on. Yet even then my daughter will be denied – as she says – both justice and protection.

As a result, one must wonder just how powerless others might feel who are not able to get the ear of influential people in order to fight for the safety and rights of their children or themselves.

When it comes to victims of sexual offences, talk, by the authorities, is very cheap – it is only action that matters.