Former Edinburgh MSP says mother admitted daughter ‘lied’ about being gang raped by ‘Fernieside three’ who were each jailed for 6 years in 2000
A former politician claims a mother admitted to him that her daughter lied about being gang raped in Edinburgh by three men who were given six year jail terms for the crime.
Mike Pringle, who served for eight years as Lib Dem MSP for Edinburgh South, believes David Pugh, Kevin Kane and Brian Meighan - known as the “Fernieside Three” - are innocent and have suffered a miscarriage of justice.
In 2000, the trio were found guilty of detaining a woman against her will and raping her in a tower block in the south of the city in November 1999. The Crown Office relied on evidence from a police casualty surgeon in respect of injuries to the complainer.
The three men denied the offence and claimed the 21-year-old woman had consented to group sex. They have always maintained their innocence.
In January, the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) referred all three applicants’ convictions to the High Court for an appeal in light of fresh evidence arising from developments in medical science. This consists of three expert reports which will be used to claim there was no evidential basis for the forensic examiner to conclude at trial they did not have consensual sex.
Speaking to the Edinburgh Evening News, Mr Pringle revealed that he met the young woman’s parents at their home in the south of the city around 2004, after visiting his constituent David Pugh in prison to hear of his concerns about the conviction.
Mr Pringle said the complainer’s father initially answered the door and was reluctant to talk but that her mother invited him in and he was shown into the lounge. He explained he was there to talk about the convictions because the three men were adamant it was consensual.
Mr Pringle said: “She said ‘I think that is right.’”
He said she told him that her daughter said it “had been consensual,” adding: “I said ‘why not go to court and give evidence on their behalf?’ and she said she could not because of her grandchildren. She said ‘if I gave evidence against my daughter, her partner would stop me ever seeing my grandchildren again.’”
Mr Pringle continued: “I spent a bit of time trying to persuade her and saying that these are three young men sentenced to six years in prison and that it will ruin their lives.
“We talked about the subject for a good half hour. The father never said a word. She said ‘I know that but that’s not my problem.’ She said I need to continue to see my grandchildren. I realised I was getting nowhere and thanked her and said I understand where you are coming from and the man showed me out.”
Mr Pringle said it was unclear why, if her daughter had said to her mother it was consensual, she went ahead with the accusation - but he suspects someone persuaded her to claim criminal compensation.
Other friends of the complainer have previously made similar claims about the rape allegation being made up.
Mr Pringle said when he visited David Pugh in prison he saw he was “absolutely determined” to prove his innocence.
He said: “It’s the only miscarriage of justice I have ever come across.
“It was only after I met the woman’s mother that I believed these guys were absolutely innocent.”
The three men were each sentenced to six years in jail following conviction and released on licence in 2004. Initial appeals were refused in June 2002, and in 2004 the SCCRS refused to consider referring their cases back to the High Court.
They also called for a judicial review to challenge the commission’s refusal and this was turned down in July 2006.
In April 2019, David Pugh applied again to the commission in relation to the fresh evidence from the three experts which refuted the opinion evidence given by the forensic medical examiner at trial.
Given the grounds to be reviewed were common to the co-accused, Meighan and Kane, they also applied to have their convictions reviewed in September 2020.
One of the expert reports being used is from forensic pathologist Birgitte Schmidt Astrup, associate professor at the Institute of Forensic Medicine at the University of Southern Denmark, who published a study in 2012 suggesting vaginal injuries are just as common after voluntary sex as they are in rapes.
The SCCRC said previously it considers the fresh evidence now available is of a “kind and quality” which was likely to have been of “material assistance” to the jury in its consideration of the critical issue of consent, and there “may have been a miscarraige of justice.”
A substantive appeal date has not yet been confirmed but a procedural hearing is due to take place later in April.
‘Lured’ into flat
The High Court in Edinburgh was told the woman was lured into a 14th floor flat in Little France House in November 1999. She told the court that she had been looking for a friend in Craigour Place at the time.
When outside she called for her friend but got no reply and said she heard someone from the block of flats ask who she was looking for. The woman said she was told the friend she was seeking was in the flat where she found three strangers – Meighan, Kane and Pugh.
The woman said she was worried after they got into a conversation about sex and tried to leave but was pushed into the bedroom and attacked.
The three men claimed the woman was allowed to alter her 14-page police statement regarding where the attack was said to have taken place, changing it from the stairwell of a high-rise to one of the accused’s flats.
The men - aged 19, 23 and 24 at the time - also claimed police officers failed to test the woman for drug use and tried to suppress CCTV evidence.
They insist the woman consented to group sex, and twice turned down the chance of parole by refusing to change their pleas to guilty.
A message from the Editor:
Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by coronavirus impacts our advertisers.
If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription at https://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/subscriptions.