1. ITV Report

Alesha MacPhail murderer Aaron Campbell sees sentence cut by three years

  • Video report by ITV News Scotland Correspondent Peter Smith

A 17-year-old boy convicted of abducting, raping and murdering six-year-old Alesha MacPhail has had his sentence reduced by three years.

Aaron Campbell was initially handed down a life term with a minimum 27-year sentence but launched an appeal.

The three appeal court judges concluded that: "Against the cases to which we have made reference, a punishment part in excess of 20 years was plainly merited.

"We have concluded that a punishment part of 24 years would be appropriate to reflect the appellant’s youth."

Campbell, who was aged 16 at the time of the murder, took Alesha from her bed at her grandparents’ home on the Isle of Bute in July last year.

Alesha MacPhail was killed on Bute last summer. Credit: PA

Her uncle, Calum John MacPhail, told ITV News he was losing any faith in the justice system to protect people.

"He plays the system and it works for him every time.

"We can't do anything to the system other than now what I'm doing in trying to get this law changed, so that people like him do not have the opportunity to go into a court, lie for the best part of 10 days then change and turnaround and say 'do you know what? I actually did do it.

"'But at the end of the day, I'm going to get a lesser sentence and then I'm to appeal it and you're going to give me everything I want'."

Campbell threw his clothing into the sea before going back to the scene to retrieve his phone, later denying to family members he had any involvement in the disappearance of the child.

At his trial, the court was told how Alesha had suffered 117 separate injuries.

The court heard graphic details of the mutilation inflicted on the girl.

Having initially denied the crimes, Campbell finally admitted to the murder during the preparation of a psychological report ahead of his sentencing.

Aaron Campbell, 17, who was convicted of raping and murdering six-year-old Alesha MacPhail. Credit: Police Scotland/PA

Lord Matthews sentenced Campbell to life imprisonment and ordered him to spend at least 27 years behind bars before he could apply for parole, but warned he may never be released.

The judge said social work and psychologist reports “had painted a clear picture of a cold, callous, calculating, remorseless and dangerous individual”.

Alesha's mother, Georgina Lochrane, heard harrowing details during the case. Credit: PA

The little girl, from Airdrie, North Lanarkshire, was days into her summer holiday with father Robert MacPhail, 26, and grandparents when she was snatched by Campbell, who tried to blame her father’s girlfriend Toni McLachlan, 18, for the crime.

A jury at the High Court in Glasgow took three hours to find the teenager guilty unanimously in February of this year, following a nine-day trial.

The appeal court judges added in their ruling on Tuesday: "As with all punishment parts, this is not an indication of the date when the appellant will be released.

"It specifies rather the period which must pass before the appellant may even apply for parole.

"As the trial judge had observed, and as was recognised by counsel for the appellant, 'whether [the appellant] will ever be released will be for others to determine but as matters stand a lot of work will have to be done to change [the appellant] before that could be considered. It may even be impossible'."

But the family is extremely disappointed in the decision.

Alesha's uncle Calum said: "It's very frustrating and hard to put into words how angry, upset and disappointed I am in the current justice system that would allow someone like him to have an appeal and then, two, to grant that appeal and then grant him three years less that what he was already given.

"After spending 10 days in a court listening to everything, seeing stuff that will never, ever go back out my mind and hearing how soul-destroying it was, not only for ourselves but for everyone else involved in the case.

"The fact that he lied about it and how he's getting three years off. There's nothing we can do and turn round and say 'do you know what, that's acceptable'.

"The justice system has been give give give to him and take away from us."

The appeals process cannot be taken any further, by either side.