August 2022

Former prosecutor John Watt QC jailed for abusing children

A former Scottish Court prosecutor has been jailed for 10 years for sexually abusing four young children more than four decades ago.

John Watt QC, who was also a criminal defence lawyer, preyed on three young girls and a boy over a 14-year period.

The 72-year-old had been extradited from the United States to stand trial in July.

Judge Lord Braid told Watt he had committed “vile” crimes of the “utmost seriousness and depravity.”

Watt was also put on the sex offenders register for an indeterminate period.

Last month, Watt was found guilty of one charge of rape, one of indecent assault and three of indecent conduct committed at houses in the Edinburgh area between September 1973 and August 1987.

At the High Court in Edinburgh, Lord Braid said: “In each case the offences have had a profound and life-changing effect on the victims.”

The judge said that Watt continued to maintain his innocence over the abuse and added that perhaps explained why he had not demonstrated any remorse or empathy for his victims.

Lord Braid said: “In your role as advocate depute (Crown Office prosecutor) you prosecuted the very type of offence of which you have now been convicted.”

Watt raped a girl under the age of 12 at an address in the west end of Edinburgh.

Two other girls were later molested by him in their beds at a house in Edinburgh and a 10-year-old boy was subjected to sexual abuse at an address in Leith in 1987.

The court previously heard that a number of the victims had relatives who were also legal figures at the time.

During his trial, Watt pinned the blame on a now dead lawyer for attacks on one of the girls.

The female rape victim told the trial that her father, who was also a lawyer, took her to see Watt at a house in Edinburgh. The woman, now aged 55, said: “I did things to the man which he made me do.”

Two sisters told the trial how their lawyer father often hosted gatherings at their home where Watt and others would be present.

One described waking up to find Watt at her bedside before he got in beside her and began touching her inappropriately.

Her sister saw him in the bed and recalled being “frightened”, but the advocate then turned on her and subjected her to abuse.

The court heard that their father had subsequently reported Watt to a senior lawyer, who later became a judge, instead of going to police.

The male victim told the court: “I was raped by John Watt. I remember him coming in the room and I remember him telling me to turn over.” Watt was meant to be looking after the boy while his parents were away.

When John Watt was sentenced in the courts where he used to practise as a senior lawyer, prosecuting people accused of sex crimes, two of his victims were watching from the public gallery.

The sisters were young girls when the Queen’s Counsel abused them at their home in Edinburgh 40 years ago. Watt was convicted of raping two other children, a girl aged under 12 and a 10-year-old boy.

They listened to Watt’s defence counsel Donald Findlay QC complain that the ex-lawyer had been “treated like some kind of serial killer” when he was arrested by armed American police officers on behalf of the Scottish authorities.

They heard Mr Findlay say Watt was sympathetic to “any victim of this type of behaviour” but still maintained his innocence.

They watched the judge Lord Braid jail the ex-lawyer for 10 years, having noted that his behaviour had had a “profound and lifelong” effect on his victims.

July 2022

Former top Scots lawyer convicted of sex abuse against four children

A former senior Scottish lawyer has been convicted of sexual abuse and rape against four children.

John Watt QC was hauled back to Scotland from America to face justice after preying on three girls and a boy over 14 years in the 1970s and 80s.

A number of the victims had relatives who were also legal figures at the time.

The attacks happened at different properties in Edinburgh’s New Town and Leith, as well as another in the West End of the capital.

Watt, now 72, was extradited in 2020 from Oklahoma in the United States, having moved there in the mid-90s with his wife to escape prosecution

He denied the crimes during a trial at the High Court in Glasgow pinning the blame on a now dead lawyer for attacks on one girl. But, Watt was today found guilty of a total of five charges spanning between 1973 and 1987.

He was convicted of raping one girl. Watt was further guilty of lewd and libidinous behaviour against the same victim, another girl and a boy. He was also guilty of indecently assaulting a third girl.

The shamed former advocate showed no emotion as he was remanded in custody pending sentencing next month. Watt often worked and mingled with a number of leading names in the Scottish legal world at the time.

The female rape victim told how her father – who was also a lawyer – took her to see Watt at a house in Edinburgh. Prosecutors said she was aged seven when the abuse began.

She recalled being given an “instruction” by her dad before being left alone with Watt. Prosecutor Kath Harper asked what then happened. The now 55 year-old replied: “I did things to the man which he made me do.”

She told jurors how she was raped on two occasions and Watt told her she was a “good girl”. Watt’s legal team had lodged a special defence incriminating another lawyer for the crimes against this victim.

But, shown a photo of this man, the woman insisted he was not the person who attacked her. Two sisters – now in their 50s – told the trial how their lawyer father often hosted gathering at their home where Watt and others would turn up.

One recalled being in bed during a social event there and woke up to find Watt at her bedside. She said: “I think he said something about being cold or tired… and got into my bed.”

This victim said she was facing away from the door when Watt inappropriately touched her. The witness added: “I have a lawyer in [my] bed, but you think something is happening which is not right.”

Her sister had saw Watt in the bed for around 10 minutes. She remembered being “frightened” and moved to turn away. But, the preying advocate then turned on her putting his hand under her bed clothes.

The woman sobbed as she described being molested for “what felt like 10 minutes.” She claimed that she did not tell her parents what happened to her the next morning despite her sister speaking to them about her attack.

Jurors were read a statement from their dad, who has since passed away. He said he had reported Watt to a senior lawyer, who later became a high court judge, instead of police at the time.

Jurors were also read an undated letter from Watt to the sisters’ dad in which he “apologised unreservedly…for any distress caused.” Watt’s final victim told how he was aged 10 when the advocate had been asked to look after him while his parents were away.

But, the now 45 year-old told Miss Harper: “I was raped by John Watt. I remember him coming in the room and I remember him telling me to turn over.”

Asked how long the attack lasted, the witness replied: “Honestly, I do not know. I have played it over in my mind 100,000 times. I know it was something I did not want.”

After the abuse, Watt gave up law in Scotland and set up a new life in Oklahoma in 1995, working at his wife’s real estate agency.

But justice caught him up with him, when a police probe lead to him being extradited back to Scotland in 2020. From once regularly appearing in the well of a courtroom, he instead stood in the dock of Edinburgh Sheriff Court in October of that year to face the charges.

Watt had been living at flat in Glasgow city centre during the trial. He claimed in his evidence that he had “never seen” the female rape victim, had “no recollection” of the incidents with the young sisters and had never been in sole charge of the boy.

Defence QC Donald Findlay had asked for Watt to remain on bail pending sentencing.

However, judge Lord Braid told Watt: “You have been convicted of very serious offences and a custodial sentence is inevitable. Bail will be withdrawn and you will be remanded in custody.”

He will be sentenced on August 8 in Edinburgh.