Scottish Schoolgirl’s Assailant May Receive Lenient Sentence Due to His Age, Sparking Controversy

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A man has been found guilty of raping a teenage girl in a classroom during a lunch break while he was still a student.

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Zineelabibine Abbood made his victim endure a trial, and there are now concerns among justice advocates that he may receive a lighter sentence due to his age at the time of the crime when he appears in court next month.

The 21-year-old, who was 16 at the time of the November 2019 incident at a Glasgow secondary school, might avoid imprisonment due to sentencing guidelines for those under 25. This case is reminiscent of Sean Hogg, who avoided prison for crimes committed at age 17, triggering public outrage.

Initially, Hogg received a community service order of 270 hours for raping a 13-year-old, but his conviction was eventually overturned. The victim’s family in the Hogg case fears Abbood might also escape jail under similar provisions.

A family member commented, “Rape is rape, regardless of age, and the perpetrators should face suitable punishment. Light penalties do not serve justice to the victims nor deter potential offenders.

“The judicial system seems to shield these child abusers from prison, but what about the victims’ lifelong burden? We felt betrayed, and if this trend of leniency for under-25 offenders continues, many more victims will struggle with their traumatic experiences.”

The trial, which took four years to reach Glasgow High Court, saw Abbood deny the allegations.

The court heard that Abbood and the victim were initially playing guitars in a music classroom. He claimed the sexual encounter was initiated by the girl, but the prosecution argued that Abbood raped her, which involved biting, pulling, and groping, causing her harm.

Prosecutors described how he harassed her to perform a sexual act and then insisted on demonstrating it himself.

Advocate depute Ruaraidh Ferguson highlighted a teacher’s testimony, stating, “She entered to find the girl visibly distressed, with red eyes and a puffy face, appearing to have been crying extensively.”

Abbood maintained in court that he believed the girl was “fine,” admitting he “hadn’t been paying attention” to her expressions. He insisted she had consented several times, but the jury convicted him of rape.

Judge Thomas Welsh KC extended Abbood’s bail until his sentencing on June 14 in Edinburgh.

The trial’s delay was partly due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

New sentencing guidelines introduced in January 2022 prioritize rehabilitation over punishment for young offenders, potentially leading to shorter sentences for individuals like Abbood if they were under 25 at the time of the crime.

In 2021, the Scottish Sentencing Council advocated for an “individualistic approach” for those under 25, considering their life experiences and aiming to reduce reoffending, based on evidence that the brain is not fully developed before this age.

Hogg was initially convicted of a 2018 rape in Dalkeith Country Park, Midlothian, and received a community service order due to these guidelines. However, his conviction was later overturned due to insufficient evidence, following a High Court of Appeal decision in Edinburgh.

Hogg’s case saw a misdirection to jurors by Lord Lake regarding the significance of the victim’s distress as corroborative evidence, leading to his conviction being quashed.

It was also revealed that Hogg had changed his identity and was living under a new name in Hamilton.

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