Former MSP Bill Walker jailed for 12 months

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Former MSP Bill Walker has been jailed for 12 months at Edinburgh Sheriff Court for a string of attacks against his three ex-wives and a stepdaughter between 1967 and 1995.

Walker was found guilty of 23 charges of domestic abuse last month after a two-week trial.

Bill Walker was found guilty of domestic abuse. Pic: Neil Hanna

Bill Walker was found guilty of domestic abuse. Pic: Neil Hanna

The 71-year-old initially refused to vacate his Holyrood seat despite pressure from campaigners and MSPs, the vast majority of whom signed a motion calling for him to step down.

He did resign from the Scottish Parliament almost two weeks ago, blaming a ‘’media onslaught’’ that made it impossible for him to continue.

The by-election to fill his Dunfermline seat will be held on October 24.

Walker, of Alloa in Clackmannanshire, was convicted of 23 charges of assault and one charge of breaching the peace between 1967 and 1995.

Sheriff Katherine Mackie found him guilty of assaulting his first wife Maureen Traquair on three separate occasions in the 1960s and 1980s. On one occasion he punched her in the face, giving her a black eye two weeks before their wedding day in January 1967.

Walker was also convicted of assaulting his second wife, Anne Gruber, 15 times between 1978 and 1984. He also committed a breach of the peace by brandishing an air rifle at her house.

The former politician was convicted of four assaults on his third wife Diana Walker, three of which involved slapping or punching her on the face. The attacks happened between June 1988 and January 1995.

Walker was also found guilty of assaulting and injuring Mrs Gruber’s 16-year-old daughter, Anne Louise Paterson, by repeatedly striking her on the head with a saucepan in 1978.

The crimes were committed at addresses in Edinburgh, Stirling, Midlothian and Alloa.

The former SNP MSP, who was expelled from the party when the allegations surfaced and subsequently served as an independent member, denied the charges. He claimed he acted in self-defence in relation to three of them.

Giving evidence, he claimed he was the victim of “smearing” and that his ex-wives colluded to accuse him of domestic violence.

But Sheriff Mackie said Walker was not a credible witness and the evidence shows he was “controlling, domineering, demeaning and belittling” towards his former wives.

The sheriff said she found the Crown witnesses, particularly Walker’s ex-wives, to be credible and reliable.

Sheriff Mackie said: “I formed the impression that in the few incidents where you acknowledged the use of physical force, you believed you were entitled to or justified in its use, and certainly have made no apology for it.

“Your denial appears to me to be absolute. There is no acknowledgement of any unacceptable behaviour, there is no indication of any motivation to change.

“The conclusion that there’s a significant scope to work with you to address your entrenched attitudes, value and beliefs surrounding domestic abuse is flawed.”

The sheriff said it was clear from their evidence that to Walker’s former wives his behaviour remained “vivid and distressing”.

“Having regard to the gravity of these offences as a result of the cumulative effect of them, your extreme denial and complete absence of any remorse, and the assessment of risk, I have come to the conclusion that a custodial sentence is the only appropriate disposal,” she said.

“In my opinion, the repeated abuse and violent behaviour towards your three former wives and stepdaughter over a period of 28 years outweighs other factors.”

He was elected to the Scottish Parliament in a surprise victory for the SNP two years ago. On a night of success for the party, Walker beat the previous Liberal Democrat winner into third place and finished 590 votes above Labour.