Our sister title The Herald has published a follow-up to yesterday's story which featured writer Neil Mackay sharing his family's experience with the justice system after his daughter was subjected to a sexual attack in Glasgow.

Today he reveals what the experts say...

IT is terrifying to hear from one of Scotland’s most pre-eminent experts on sexual offences that they fear for the safety of your own daughter. But, as I write this, the words of Dr Mairead Tagg are swirling in my head – and I can think of nothing else.

Dr Tagg spoke to me after my daughter, Caitie, took the painful decision to speak publicly in The Herald on Sunday yesterday of the way the police and the Scottish justice system failed her in the wake of a sexual offence she suffered earlier this year.

The offence happened in July, when Caitie, a university student, was on the way to her part-time job at Silverburn Shopping Centre on the south side of Glasgow. A man aged 20 approached her, tried to lure her into woods, exposed himself and committed a sex act in front of her. She ran for her life, and later called the police – fully expecting the case to be quickly resolved. The case was not resolved, even though she was able to identify the man on Facebook and offer to pass details to investigators. Nothing then happened until two weeks after the offence, when the man was spotted by Caitie at her place of work, and she called the police to Silverburn, where officers talked to him but let him go home.

The offender was discovered to have mental health problems. As a result, he was never interviewed – and because he was never interviewed he was not charged. And because he was not charged he will never be prosecuted. To add to Caitie’s distress, the man took to stalking her at her place of work, appearing at the shopping centre about 10 times, watching her, and even circling the concession stand at which she works.

Caitie asked for help from the shopping centre, but was told the offender had not been charged and was a “welcome shopper”. As Caitie said yesterday: “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.”

The case raises serious public interest issues, including: the way sexual offences are investigated; the commitment by the authorities to deal properly with all sexual offences; the risk of reoffending; and the protection of victims of crime at work. The biggest question the case raises is: if this is the standard of investigation in a sexual offence, then just how safe are women?

At Caitie’s request, I spoke to a number of people about the case, including Scottish Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf, who described the case as “distressing”, and moved to reassure victims of sexual crime that their complaints would be dealt with properly.

A senior justice source said the way the police investigated the case was “fundamentally flawed, as many people who commit sexual offences have learning difficulties or mental health problems”. The source added police should have known how to handle the case as there was a “danger to your daughter, a danger to the individual, and a danger to wider society as you can bet your bottom dollar that Caitie will not have been the only person who will have had an interaction with this person”.

The senior source said: “Something has gone wrong here and the police need to get on top of it. I don’t know what the hell could have happened.” The source was also concerned about the way Silverburn had acted in terms of protecting an employee who was victim of a sexual offence, and commended Caitie’s “bravery” for lifting her anonymity to make the issue public.

Referring to the MeToo movement, the source added: “Caitie’s experience seems to be very much against the spirit of the times.”

Campaigners for women’s rights were furious about the case. Dr Tagg, a clinical psychologist who has specialised in gender-based violence for more than 30 years and is an expert witness in such cases, said Caitie’s story showed how hard it is for women to achieve justice when it comes to sexual offences.

She added: “The story of how Caitie has been treated makes my blood boil. This is how women get killed.

“The fact he tried to lure her to woods, that he did what he did in front of her, that he compounded his offence by stalking her – this shows he is someone who is disinhibited – and in my view Caitie’s safety has to come first… What he has done shows a level of fixation… This is very, very frightening – absolutely terrifying. He is a sexual predator, and should be off the streets unable to cause harm.

“The police should have arrested and interviewed him. It is for the procurator fiscal to decide if it goes to court. She should have been taken seriously. People who behave like this man escalate their crimes, it is only a matter of time until this man hurts somebody. He needs stopped in his tracks.

“The shopping centre also has a duty of care to her and they have failed in that duty. I am really chilled by this case – and everyone should be concerned. I have concerns for your daughter’s safety – I cannot lie to you about that, as I cannot fail in my own duty of care.”

Mr Yousaf said: “This was clearly a very distressing incident and my sympathies go out to the victim involved. While I cannot comment on specific cases, with the investigation of crime being an operational matter for Police Scotland, I want all victims to have the confidence to report any instances of sexual offending so that they can be considered and dealt with appropriately by relevant agencies.

“The Scottish Government is committed to ensuring everyone has the right to work and live their life free of abuse, harassment and intimidation. Last year, we published a delivery plan for Equally Safe, our strategy to prevent and eradicate all forms of violence against women and girls. We are taking action on many fronts to invest in prevention work, frontline services and improvements in the justice system, as well as the introduction of landmark legislation on domestic abuse, abusive behaviour and sexual harm.”

Sandy Brindley, of Rape Crisis Scotland, said there have been improvements in police response to sexual offences in recent years. What made the biggest difference, she said, was the introduction of specialists officers. She said there had also been “very welcome commitments from politicians and senior officials within the criminal justice system” about “the prevalence and impact of sexual crime”, but added: “What really matters, however, is whether someone reporting sexual crime feels that they are being taken seriously. This case shows we still have some way to go.”

Rape Crisis is also concerned about police responses to stalking – generally dealt with by uniformed rather than specialists officers. “It is essential that people in these circumstances can have confidence the police are taking them seriously,” Ms Brindley said. “Measures must be put in place to ensure the safety of the person being targeted. The very least someone in these circumstances should be able to expect is for the police to be concerned about their safety.”

David Pierotti, general manager of Silverburn, said: “Ensuring we create a safe and welcoming environment for our colleagues as well as our customers is critically important to us. In this case, we are enormously disappointed to hear an employee believes we have not achieved this. We are deeply committed to putting colleague and customer safety and well-being above all else. We will continue to work with the authorities and take their guidance on this issue and in the future.”

Officially, police said “extensive inquiries” had been carried out into the offence, and officers will continue to investigate any further information they receive. After Caitie called police and identified the offender to officers, police say they felt there was “insufficient evidence” to arrest the man. On the issue of the offender not being interviewed – due to what police described as “complex mental health issues” – officers say they sought advice from “relevant medical professionals and found him not fit for interview”. After this, police said there “wasn’t enough evidence to establish criminality from him” – despite no interview being conducted, and the man being identified by the victim.

The inquiry remains open. My daughter remains angry, fearful and let down by the Scottish justice system. Change is needed now.


Yesterday, I took the very difficult decision of speaking publicly about the offence that happened to me and the response by the  authorities.  The way the police dealt with the issue was woefully inadequate, deeply upsetting, and disturbing – but I trust now the powers-that-be have fully learned about what happened that I may get some justice, and myself and other women will be protected and feel respected by the law.

What occurred has left me feeling at risk – something that I see is echoed today by experts in sexual offences who worry that as the offender is still at large, and not even interviewed as yet by police, let alone charged or prosecuted, then women remain in danger.

In this day and age, one would hope and imagine that the authorities would take every step possible within their power to protect the victims of sexual offences – that does not seem to be the case here.

Put simply, the offender should be interviewed, questioned, and if possible charged and prosecuted.  I am aware there are claims he has mental health issues – however, if the criminal justice system is unable to deal with him for this reason, then why can’t the mental health system? To do nothing cannot be allowed to stand.

If this man is neither dealt with by the criminal justice system nor the mental health system, then self-evidently he may reoffend, and the severity of his crimes escalate.  There is a very real question of public safety at issue in this case.

The offender also stalked me repeatedly at my place of work. With this issue also now made public, I hope employers learn the lesson they have a duty of care to  staff.

I watched on social media as woman after woman spoke up about their experience of similar cases, in response to me speaking publicly about what happened.  This was heartbreaking. Surely, the time has now come for action rather than words from the authorities when the issue of women’s safety is at stake.

It is a pity an ordinary young woman has to speak publicly about such painful and personal issues to elicit what I can only hope will be the correct response from the authorities.  But if lifting my anonymity is what is needed to make things change for the better, then so be it.