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Man jailed after playdough assault put child’s life at risk

Inverness Justice Centre
Inverness Justice Centre

A Lochaber hotel worker who assaulted a number of children over a 10-year period has been jailed for two years at Inverness Sheriff Court today.

One of 44-year-old John Cullen’s victims had playdough stuck over their nose and mouth to the danger of life. It was the most serious of the six charges he pleaded guilty to last month.

Sentence had been deferred for reports on Cullen of Carn Dearg Road, Claggan, who had also admitted four charges of causing injury, and one of causing permanent disfigurement.

Abuse carried out over more than a decade

The victims, who cannot be named for legal reasons, were attacked in Fort William between January 2006 and April 2016.

Fiscal depute Robert Weir told Sheriff Margaret Neilson that the children were slapped, punched and kicked.

Some were also choked or suffocated by Cullen. The child who had the playdough fixed to their face swallowed some of it in an attempt to breathe, Mr Weir said.

Other children were struck with plates, one on the leg causing a laceration.

Lawyer admits Cullen unlikely to avoid jail

Defence counsel Tim Niven-Smith told Sheriff Neilson: “I accept this was a sustained course of conduct and that a custodial sentence was likely.

“It is a steep slope to persuade the court not to impose a custodial sentence.

“He has no previous convictions and the offences stopped in 2016.

“For the past five years he has been of good behaviour, and he is assessed as being at low risk of reoffending.”

Mr Niven-Smith said the psychiatric report on his client referred to the suicide of Cullen’s first wife in 2002 and then the murder of a friend.

He said: “It was a turning point, life-changing events which triggered substance and alcohol abuse.

“He provides no explanation for his behaviour but he accepts full responsibility.

“He is deeply ashamed and accepts these children will be scarred by the trauma he caused.”

Jail only option

Sentencing Cullen, Sheriff Neilson said: “In my view, the age of the victims, the nature of the offences and the length of time over which they were committed are such that only a custodial sentence is appropriate.

“But your pleas of guilty meant that your victims did not have to give evidence.”

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