Churchman `assaulted women'

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The Independent Online
A theology professor in the Free Church of Scotland forced himself on a 17-year-old girl and kissed her when they were alone in his house, a court heard yesterday.

Professor Donald Macleod, 55, Professor of Systematic Theology at the church's college in Edinburgh, is alleged to have kissed or attempted to kiss four women and unbuttoned the blouse of another before fondling her breasts. He denies six charges of indecent assault involving five women, said to have taken place between 1985 and 1992.

The woman, now 28, told Edinburgh Sheriff Court she had been on a visit to Edinburgh in 1985 when the incident took place in Macleod's house. She said that Macleod sent his son to go to a shop to buy something. While he was out, Macleod kept asking her how she felt and she told the court that she began to feel uneasy.

"I did not know what he was looking for. He was quite agitated as well. I was fidgeting with my hands and I'm sure he told me to stop."

She said she had been sitting on the chaise-longue and being a bit of a tomboy, she had her legs slightly apart.

Macleod came and stood between her legs, pulled her towards him and kissed her, she said. The moment was broken when his son returned.

Later, a 35-year-old statistics lecturer said she was indecently assaulted by Macleod in his study in 1986. That summer she was visiting a friend during the Edinburgh Festival and decided to contact Macleod at the college, having met him previously at a conference. When she went up to his study that evening, the professor told her she was an attractive woman and said his wife became jealous.

"At some point he started to touch me," she told the court. He fondled her breasts and put his hand up her skirt. "I can remember talking about his wife. I can also remember saying to him that he would damage his career if I spoke up. He said nobody would believe me."

Cross-examined by Andrew Hardie, QC, defending, the woman accepted she had written to Macleod after a second alleged assault took place in a shopping centre car park. She had praised him on his preaching but had made no mention of what was meant to have happened. She had also started subscribing to the church magazine which he edited.

Asked if this was not odd behaviour, considering what was meant to have happened, the woman said she could have been in denial, which was a common reaction among victims of sexual assault.

She said she had told senior churchmen in the Free Church of Scotland she would not pursue the matter unless there were any other complaints involving Macleod, and she expected to be told of these.

But later, when the church appeared to have dropped investigations into her complaint, she said she had gone to the police because she was afraid that a man who committed a sexual assault would go on to offend again. But Mr Hardie said her story "beggared belief".

He suggested she had made up the assaults after Macleod had snubbed her by not replying to her letters. She had made up the complaints after her attentions had been rejected.

The trial continues today.