A CONVICTED killer given a life sentence for sexually assaulting a four-year-old girl after creeping into her bedroom has been freed by appeal court judges.
Mohammed Akram – who had a conviction for a previous sex attack – protested his innocence since the allegation against him was made following a Hogmanay party in Granton.
The 53-year-old denied sexually assaulting the girl, but was convicted after a trial of detaining her against her will, pushing her on the body and handling her privates.
The girl, then aged five, gave evidence via a video link, and told the jury that a “horrible and nasty” man had fondled her.
During the appeal, Lord Eassie, sitting with Lords Bracadale and Wheatley, watched footage of the youngster’s marathon court testimony, which stretched over two days.
The judges saw how her attention wandered, how she tried to leave the room where she was being filmed, and how she refused to answer questions.
Lord Eassie said: “It appears to us from what we saw of the video that at least by the second day, if not earlier, the child had been rendered incapable of engaging meaningfully with the process of giving evidence.”
The judge concluded that the situation meant the girl could not be questioned properly by Akram’s lawyer.
But it was trial judge Lord Brodie’s instructions to the jury on how to consider DNA evidence, and whether it backed up the girl’s story, that ensured Akram’s freedom.
Advocate depute Iain McSporran, for the Crown, conceded it was “a material misdirection” which amounted to a miscarriage of justice.
Prosecutors would not seek to put Akram on trial again, he added.
Lord Eassie said he had acted in “a very responsible manner”, and also praised advocate Claire Mitchell for the way she had handled Akram’s appeal.
Akram, who a psychologist warned poses a high risk to the public, was previously jailed as a teenager for five years for culpable homicide in 1979.
He was imprisoned again for eight years in 2003 for a serious sex attack on a 16-year-old student in his then hometown of Alloa, Clackmannanshire, in 2001.
Last year’s trial had heard how guests were enjoying a New Year party – to see in 2011 – along with the four-year-old girl’s mum when Akram was accused of carrying out the bedroom attack while still on licence.
Akram was found guilty of indecent assault by touching the girl’s private parts over her clothes.
In November last year, Lord Brodie ordered Akram to serve a minimum of one year, but warned he would stay in jail until the parole board agreed he no longer posed a threat and saw fit to free him.
After his conviction, Akram had been handed an Order for Lifelong Restriction (OLR), a sentence reserved for the most serious cases of sexual and violent offending short of murder.
A prisoner subject to an OLR serves an initial jail term imposed by the court and remains in custody until such time as the parole authorities decide it is appropriate to release them.