Serial child sex attacker set free over ‘unsafe conviction’

McGarva was on trial at Dundee Sheriff Court.
McGarva was on trial at Dundee Sheriff Court.

A SERIAL sex beast from Fife has walked free from a six-year sentence after appeal court judges ruled his third child sex abuse conviction was unsafe.

John McGarva was handed a lengthy prison term last year after being found guilty of child abuse charges for the third time.

A trial at Dundee Sheriff Court last year heard McGarva – who was previously convicted of similar offences in 1999 and 2015 – had earned the trust of his victim’s parents by doing them favours – with one saying he reminded her of “Santa Claus with his white hair and beard”.

The 72-year-old was found unanimously guilty by a jury of intentionally causing a young girl to participate in a sexual activity, while on bail. Those offences took place on various occasions between December 1 2014 and July 28 2015 in Fife.

He was also unanimously found guilty of sexually assaulting a young girl, while on bail, on various occasions between December 1, 2014 and July 28, 2015, at addresses in Fife and Kinross-shire.

At his sentencing hearing last year a sheriff told him: “No one who had to watch the video of what you got that little girl to do could have been in any doubt she was telling the truth.”

But his advocate Dana Forbes argued at the Court of Criminal Appeal that the evidence of his alleged victims at the trial last year could not safely corroborate each other.

Advocate depute Alex Prentice QC, for the Crown argued the conviction should be upheld.

But the Lord Justice Clerk Lady Dorrian, sitting with Lord Menzies and Lord Malcolm, allowed McGarva’s appeal and quashed his conviction and sentence from last year’s trial.

They ordered that he be released from the six-year extended sentence imposed last year.

A source close to his alleged victims said: “They are devastated by this news – it is horrific for them.”

Card shop owner McGarva, of Kinglassie, denied all wrongdoing at the trial last year but was found guilty by a jury last October – who never knew he had been convicted previously of similar offences at similar times.

Jurors looked shocked and upset when they learned he had been convicted twice before – for child sex attacks in 1998 and 2015.

They were told he got probation for the 1998 offence, which involved at least two young girls.

And when he was convicted again in 2015 for groping two girls aged 14 and 16 in his Kinross card shop, he was given a community payback order with 200 hours’ unpaid work, a sexual offences prevention order and a ban from going near kids.

When he was sentenced last year for the now-quashed third conviction, Sheriff Alastair Brown told McGarva: “You were convicted by a jury of a very serious offence. I can see from the criminal and social work and psychiatric reports that you still deny your guilt.

“No one who had to watch the video of what you got that little girl to do could have been in any doubt she was telling the truth.

“She was too young and too naive to make it up.

“Her evidence was a compelling and appalling account of what you did to her.

“You have a bad history of interfering with little girls.”