The lawyer who defended the teenager who later admitted raping and murdering six-year-old Alesha MacPhail has said it is not his job to decide whether a client is innocent or guilty.
Aaron Campbell, 16, has been sentenced to life imprisonment and locked up for at least 27 years after he was convicted of abducting, raping and murdering the child on the Isle of Bute.
The teenager snatched Alesha from her bed as she slept at her grandparents’ home on the Isle of Bute last summer and inflicted horrific injuries on the schoolgirl before dumping her body in nearby woodland on July 2 last year.
He was convicted last month at the High Court in Glasgow, where a jury found him guilty unanimously following a nine-day trial, and finally admitted the crime in a psychological report prepared ahead of his sentencing on March 21.
In his first broadcast interview since the trial, Brian McConnachie QC, who represented Campbell, was asked how he feels about defending clients who have really committed the most terrible of crimes.
He told BBC Scotland’s The Nine: “Well if you want to do the job that I do, that’s not something you can focus upon. It’s not my job, it’s not any solicitor’s job or any advocate’s job to decide whether or not a person is guilty or innocent.
“In High Court cases, there are 15 people, namely the jury, who will determine that fact. If you as the representative of that person started carrying out that process, then whichever way you went, you would not be doing your job properly. If, for example, you were someone who decided that your client was innocent and he or she was ultimately convicted, presumably that would be devastating.
“If, on the other hand, you decided they were guilty – there’s at least the risk that you wouldn’t do your job properly. So in so far as I’m concerned, every client I meet irrespective of what they are charged with is treated the same way and if they give me instructions which indicate they want to go to trial, then that’s what will happen.”
Mr McConnachie could not comment on the sentence but said it was a privilege to be part of the justice process.
He told the programme: “I think that’s what it’s all about in every case that what we are is part of the process to ensure that at the end of the day, the person who’s accused has had a fair trial, which means that hopefully the witnesses involved in the case have been treated appropriately by a professional person, that there is less chance of an innocent person being convicted and that there is less chance of someone who is guilty of being acquitted in due course on the basis of some technicality which could’ve been avoided had he or she been properly represented.
“And so I consider it to be a privilege to be part of that process.”
Sentencing Campbell, Lord Matthews said social work and psychologist reports “had painted a clear picture of a cold, callous, calculating, remorseless and dangerous individual”.
He said Campbell had shown a “staggering lack of remorse”, and told the teenager: “Not once did I detect a flicker of emotion from you.”