Police officer’s sexual assault trial transferred out of Shetland despite concern at loss of local justice

The trial of a police officer facing three charges of sexual assault has been transferred to Aberdeen – despite concerns about the loss of local justice.

Rory Philip denied all three charges during today’s (Wednesday) hearing at Lerwick Sheriff Court.

He is accused of carrying out three sexual assaults at Trench Bar in Lerwick, one on 28th October and two on 18th February.

The 25-year-old is alleged to have seized hold of the first complainer and touched her body.

The later charges allege that he placed his hand on and grabbed the buttocks of two different women.

Procurator fiscal Duncan MacKenzie made an application to transfer the matter to Aberdeen as he could not be involved with the case.

This is due to Philip having been a Shetland police officer at the time of the alleged offences.

Mr MacKenzie said another fiscal would have to travel up from the mainland if the trial was held in Lerwick.

He said there would be less cost to the “public purse” if it was transferred to Aberdeen.

Sheriff Ian Cruickshank was initially reluctant to approve the application.

Noting the accused’s address, which was given as the professional standards department at Bucksburn police office, Sheriff Cruickshank said he could understand why Mr MacKenzie could not deal with the matter himself.

However, he said that any police officer accused of a crime on the mainland would be dealt with in the local court.

“Why should it transfer, just because it means another procurator fiscal has to travel to Lerwick?” he asked.

The sheriff noted that no other mainland resident accused of a crime in Shetland would be afforded the “luxury” of having their trial transferred.

“I understand the motion that you are making is in the interest of economy, particularly the interest of economy to the Crown for prosecuting the case,” Sheriff Cruickshank said.

“But that should be balanced by the fact that local cases are dealt with locally.

“We worked long and hard to get jury business back and I would have thought that the financial clout of the Crown could manage to get another fiscal up to the island to prosecute.”

Mr MacKenzie agreed it would be possible and also accepted the need for local justice.

However, he said he rarely made such applications and suggested the circumstances were “fairly exceptional”.

Sheriff Cruickshank eventually approved the transfer on the understanding the Shetland witnesses would be able to give their evidence via videolink.

The trial is due to take place at Aberdeen Sheriff Court on 17th July.

Philip was bailed with the special condition that he does not attempt to contact any of the three complainers.


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