Bill Walker jailed for 12 months for domestic abuse

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Media caption,
The sheriff said Walker was in "extreme denial" over his behaviour

A former MSP has been jailed for 12 months after being convicted of a series of domestic abuse offences.

Bill Walker was found guilty of attacking three former wives and a step-daughter between 1967 and 1995.

The 71-year-old, from Alloa, had denied 23 charges of assault and one breach of the peace, but was found guilty of all charges at Edinburgh Sheriff Court.

Sheriff Kathrine Mackie said the former independent MSP for Dunfermline was in "extreme denial".

She said he had shown a pattern of abusive behaviour in intimate relationships over a 28-year period.

She said Walker had shown no acknowledgement of his "unacceptable behaviour", and that she was unable to detect any remorse.

Sheriff Mackie said: "I formed the impression that in the few incidents where you acknowledged the use of physical force, you believed you were entitled to or justified in its use, and certainly have made no apology for it.

"Your denial appears to me to be absolute. There is no acknowledgement of any unacceptable behaviour, there is no indication of any motivation to change.

"The conclusion that there's a significant scope to work with you to address your entrenched attitudes, value and beliefs surrounding domestic abuse is flawed."

The sheriff said it was clear from their evidence that Walker's former wives believed his behaviour remained "vivid and distressing".

She said: "Having regard to the gravity of these offences as a result of the cumulative effect of them, your extreme denial and complete absence of any remorse, and the assessment of risk, I have come to the conclusion that a custodial sentence is the only appropriate disposal.

"In my opinion, the repeated abuse and violent behaviour towards your three former wives and stepdaughter over a period of 28 years outweighs other factors."

Speaking outside court, Walker's solicitor Russel McPhate said his client would appeal against his conviction.

He said: "Mr Walker is disappointed at the outcome. He is still maintaining his innocence and an appeal has been marked."

Walker resigned as an MSP earlier this month, blaming a "media onslaught".

Media caption,
Bill Walker was jailed for 12 months for attacking three of his former wives and step-daughter, as Laura Bicker reports

More than half of Scotland's 129 MSPs had backed a motion calling for him to stand down.

Walker was found guilty of assault at addresses in Edinburgh, Stirling, Midlothian and Alloa, and one charge of breaching the peace.

Sheriff Mackie, who heard the case without a jury, found Walker guilty of assaulting his first wife Maureen Traquair on three separate occasions in the 1960s and 1980s.

On one occasion, Walker punched her in the face in the run-up to their wedding day in January 1967, giving her a black eye.

Walker was further found to have assaulted his second wife Anne Gruber 15 times at various addresses in Edinburgh and Midlothian between 1978 and 1984.

Found guilty

He was also convicted of committing a breach of the peace by brandishing an air rifle at her house.

The former politician was convicted of four assaults on his third wife Diana Walker, three of which involved slapping or punching her on the face. The attacks happened between June 1988 and January 1995.

Walker was also found guilty of assaulting Mrs Gruber's daughter Anne Louise Paterson by repeatedly striking her on the head with a saucepan in 1978, injuring her.

He claimed he acted in self-defence after being assaulted by his stepdaughter, who was then 16.

His behaviour was described by the prosecution as being "violent, domineering, controlling and relentless" over decades.

Image caption,
Walker was surrounded by the media as he arrived at court

He was said to have engaged in "systematic physical and emotional abuse" towards the women over a prolonged period of time.

First Minister Alex Salmond said the custodial sentence "reflects the extremely serious nature of his crimes, for which he has shown no contrition.

"In terms of the political process, the people of Dunfermline constituency now have the opportunity to elect a new MSP, to give its communities the service and representation they deserve."

Scottish Women's Aid said it was "absolutely appropriate" that Walker had been jailed, but argued that he should have been prosecuted in a higher court with a greater range of sentencing powers.

A spokeswoman added: "We have significant concerns about why domestic abuse continues to be routinely prosecuted in summary courts, and intend to raise this with the Scottish government and the Crown Office."

Scottish Labour's Justice spokesman Graeme Pearson said: "Handing Walker the maximum sentence was the right thing to do to allow his victims to move on.

"But the public will be right to wonder why this wasn't heard in a higher court where the options for sentencing would have better fit the offences for which he was convicted."

'Strong message'

That view was echoed by Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson.

She added: "There are still plenty of questions for the SNP to answer on why such a misogynist thug was allowed to stand for election under its banner, particularly after a family member of one of his victims reported concerns to the party beforehand."

Walker was ejected from the SNP when the allegations surfaced.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: "This sentence sends a strong message that domestic abuse will not be tolerated.

"We must now use the renewed political will against the scandal of domestic abuse to address this across Scotland."

Det Supt Stuart Johnstone, of Police Scotland, said: "I welcome this sentence and would like to praise the bravery of the victims for coming forward and giving evidence in this particular case."

The by-election to fill Walker's Dunfermline seat will be held on Thursday 24 October.

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