Press excluded from monk sex trial

By Hamish Mackay

Journalists have been excluded from the initial stages of the trial
of a monk accused of sexually assaulting a woman in Aberdeen
University’s chaplaincy building.

Sheriff Kenneth Stewart took the highly unusual step of excluding
the media, despite the fact that the first two witnesses were to give
evidence via a CCTV link.

The exclusion order came at the trial
at Aberdeen Sheriff Court of Father Mark Paterson. At the time of the
alleged offence, the chaplaincy was being run by Carmelite friars.

A
procedure of excluding the public is normal in sheriff court and high
court trials in Scotland that involve allegations of a sexual nature.

However, journalists are normally allowed to remain in court while the evidence is given, to produce fair and balanced reports.

Before the first witness was called Gertie Wallace, depute procurator fiscal, asked that her evidence be taken in closed court.

She
said the witness, who was to give evidence on a CCTV link from another
location, was concerned about the presence of members of the public in
the courtroom and felt she would be unable to speak if she was aware of
their presence.

Wallace made the motion under section 19 (3) of
the Criminal Procedures Act, explaining that the first two witnesses
were of “particular vulnerability”.

The court remained closed
throughout the day, and the case has been continued until 19 August
when it is expected to resume in private session.

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