May 2011

Morris Petch’s minimum sentence cut to eight years

A man who was part of a paedophile gang in Edinburgh has had his minimum sentence for raping two girls cut to eight years by appeal judges.

Morris Petch, 54, is serving a life sentence after being found guilty of raping the minors in the 1990s.

Petch, who was convicted in 2007 of the crimes, was originally to serve a minimum of 12 years in jail.

One of his victims, Dana Fowley, gave up her right to remain anonymous and published a best-selling book.

The sentence cut follows Petch earlier having joined forces with Robert Foye, who raped a teenage schoolgirl while he was on the run from Castle Huntley open prison, to challenge the way judges calculate minimum sentences.

The result, after seven appeal judges split five to two over the decision, could benefit some of Scotland’s worst offenders.

On Wednesday, at the Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh, Lord Osborne, sitting with Lord Woolman and Lord Wheatley, cut the “punishment part” which Petch must serve by four years.

Depraved nature

In his written ruling, Lord Osborne said it may be “some comfort” to those concerned to note that Petch would not necessarily be released after completing eight years.

His freedom would depend on the parole board deciding it was safe to release him.

“Such a state of affairs may never come into being. Alternatively, if it does, that may happen only at some distant point in the future,” said Lord Osborne.

Petch had also complained that Lord Malcolm was wrong to give him a life sentence in the first place.

But the appeal judges said they had “little difficulty” in throwing out that claim.

Petch had previously been jailed for 30 months in January 1986 for a sex attack, they noted.

“Secondly we are much influenced by the appalling and depraved nature of the offences of which Petch has been convicted.”

His trial back in 2007 heard how, years earlier, the two sisters, then aged about ten and eight, were sent to Petch’s then home in the Muirhouse area of Edinburgh to be raped.

Petch had denied rape and other allegations of molesting the girls, some while acting with their mum, Caroline Dunsmore, 47.

She was jailed for 12 years for her part in the paedophile ring, run by her husband Billy King.