Child killer Aaron Campbell’s QC grateful to trial judge

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Brian McConnachie QC

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Brian McConnachie QC represented child killer Aaron Campbell during the nine-day trial at the High Court in Glasgow

The lawyer who represented child killer Aaron Campbell says he is grateful for the comments of the trial judge who commended his professionalism.

Brian McConnachie QC is forbidden from discussing his work with the teenager who abducted, raped and murdered six-year-old Alesha MacPhail.

But he welcomed the remarks of judge Lord Matthews who made clear he did not make up Campbell’s defence.

Last week the 16-year-old was jailed for at least 27 years.

Alesha was killed on 2 July last year while she was on holiday on the Isle of Bute.

Campbell denied the crime throughout his nine-day trial at the High Court in Glasgow and told the jury he had never met the child.

The killer even lodged a special defence of incrimination in which he blamed 18-year-old Toni McLachlan.

But when the schoolboy returned to the dock to be sentenced last week it emerged he had finally admitted the rape and murder.

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Police Scotland

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Aaron Campbell will spend a minimum of 27 years in prison and has been warned he may never be released

Sentencing Campbell, Lord Matthews highlighted the role of the defence during the distressing case.

Lord Matthews told Campbell: “Mr McConnachie has said all that could be said on your behalf, entirely in keeping with the exemplary way the trial was conducted on both sides of the bar.

“All matters of fact which could reasonably be agreed were agreed and the issues were well focussed and laid before the jury.

“As I said to the jury after they returned their verdict, Counsel do not make up defences but present the case on the basis of their instructions.

“It is obvious what your instructions were and your evidence was entirely in keeping with them, albeit it was a tissue of lies.”

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Media captionAlesha MacPhail murder: Lord Matthews imposes life sentence

Speaking to BBC Scotland’s The Nine in his first broadcast interview since the trial, Mr McConnachie welcomed the comments.

The QC said: “I think one good thing from a judge speaking out about matters such as that is that it perhaps helps to educate the public in the way that the system works because, I am sure, there are plenty of people who would take the view that it is the solicitor or the advocate who decides what the defence is going to be and makes it up for the accused and, of course, that could not be further from the truth.

“It was very welcome to hear a judge making the kind of comments that he did.

“At the time I was very grateful to him.”

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Campbell told Alesha he was a friend of her father and he was taking her home after she woke up

The QC also gave an insight into the legal process and explained advocates are allocated clients and instructed by solicitors using the “cab rank rule”.

Mr McConnachie added: “You can’t refuse a case because, for example, you don’t like the look of the accused or because you don’t like the subject matter or anything of that nature.”

And he stressed the client alone, despite the advice of their advocate, has the final say on whether their case goes to trial.

The Alesha MacPhail murder is rare in that Campbell denied the crime throughout the trial but then admitted it when he was interviewed for the pre-sentencing reports.

Asked if he had encountered such a scenario in a career spanning three decades, Mr McConnachie replied: “I can’t recall that happening before.”

He said it was not his job to judge clients accused of committing terrible crimes.

“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,” he said.

“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.”

And Mr McConnachie admitted he is not affected by personal criticism or criticism of his his profession.

Asked how it feels at the end of a trial to know that he is part of justice being done, he said: “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.”



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