Sex attacker could face life sentence

High Court, Edinburgh
High Court, Edinburgh

A sex attacker who targeted a lone woman dog walker before her pets went to her aid could face a life sentence after a judge expressed concern that the Crown had chosen to prosecute in the sheriff court.

Alexander McIlravie knocked his victim to the ground and told her he wanted sex as she tried to fight him off and held her two dogs on their leads.

The dogs were barking loudly and continuously and McIlravie told her to let them go. The woman did but the animals stayed beside her to protect her.

The sex attacker told her he had “a blade” and he would cut the pets if she did not make them shut up, but she told him the dogs would not go anywhere.

The mother-of-two continued to struggle with her assailant but he was too strong for her and repeatedly punched her on the head.

The pets harassed the attacker and continued to bark until he got up and fled.

McIlravie (26) was later found with injuries which a doctor said were consistent with dog bites.

A court heard that the woman believed it was the presence and actions of her dogs that made him break off his attack.

McIlravie had denied sexually assaulting the woman at Burntisland Links, Burntisland on November 11 in 2015 with intent to rape her, but was earlier convicted of the crime by a jury at Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court.

During the attack he pinned the woman down and repeatedly stated he intended to have sex with her and that he had a knife.

The woman had gone out on the dark stormy evening to exercise her dogs and became aware of a male running at her who she thought would pass by her.

But McIlravie jumped on her back and she went to the ground where he pinned her face down. After he fled she phoned her mother who contacted police.

The woman said that following the attack she did not go out on her own at night and felt she had lost the freedom to go where she wanted.

Sheriff Alastair Thornton sent the case to the High Court, which has greater powers of sentencing, to consider whether a risk assessment order should be made which can lead to the imposition of an Order for Lifelong Restriction (OLR).

Under an OLR the court imposes a minimum jail sentence to be served but any future release is left to the parole authorities to decide.

When the case called before Lord Uist at the High Court in Edinburgh today (Tuesday) the judge asked: “Why was this case prosecuted in the sheriff court?”

Advocate depute Martin Richardson said the question had occurred to him on considering the papers, but he had been unable to obtain a clear answer in the time available.

The judge said: “Even without the accused’s background, an assault of this nature on an innocent woman out walking her dogs would, I would have thought, have merited High Court proceedings.”

Lord Uist said it was “a matter of concern” that such a charge was prosecuted in the sheriff court. he added: “When the case next calls I will require an explanation as to why these proceedings were brought in the sheriff court.”

The judge made a risk assessment order and will receive a report on the risk posed to the safety of the public if McIlravie is at liberty. McIlravie, formerly of Rossend Terrace, Burntisland, who has previous convictions for assault, will be held in Perth prison while the report is prepared.