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Sentencing delayed for depraved Glasgow child abuse ring who held rape nights

One child was forced to dance before being raped while group members clapped and cheered, the court heard

Amy-Clare Martin
Crime Correspondent
Tuesday 09 January 2024 12:08 GMT
Child abusers (top left-right) Iain Owens, Elaine Lannery, Lesley Williams, Barry Watson, (bottom left-right) Scott Forbes, Paul Brannan, John Clark.
Child abusers (top left-right) Iain Owens, Elaine Lannery, Lesley Williams, Barry Watson, (bottom left-right) Scott Forbes, Paul Brannan, John Clark. (James Chapelard for The Independent)

Members of a drug-addled child abuse ring which held rape nights face very substantial jail terms for their “extraordinary depravity”, a judge has warned.

Children were subjected to a horrifying campaign of abuse over several years at various locations including a Glasgow drugs den where heroin and crack cocaine was used which became known as the “beasty house” by victims.

In November seven members of the ring were found guilty of abusing children in crimes described as plunging the “depths of human depravity” by judge Lord Beckett.

Iain Owens, 45, Elaine Lannery, 39, Lesley Williams, 41, Paul Brannan, 41, Scott Forbes, 50, Barry Watson, 47, and John Clark, 46, were all found guilty of rape and sexual assault.

Owens, Lannery, Williams and Brannan were also found guilty of attempted murder, however Clark was acquitted of the charge.

The seven child abusers were due to be sentenced at Glasgow High Court on Thursday, but the hearing was adjourned for risk assessments to be carried out.

Former asbestos removal worker and labourer Iain Owens at the High Court in Glasgow during the trial last year (James Chapelard )
Elaine Lannery at the High Court in Glasgow during the trial last year (James Chapelard )

An eighth member of the group Marianne Gallagher, 38, was convicted of assaulting a child who said they were punched, kicked and had a plastic bag put over their head, but cleared of all other charges following the two-month trial at Glasgow High Court last year. Her sentence was deferred until 6 January 2025.

A further three accused — Mark Carr, 49, Richard Gachagan, 45, and Leona Laing, 50 — were acquitted of all counts.

At the trial, jurors heard horrifying details of the groups crimes, including the attempted murder of a girl who was put in a microwave, forced to eat dog food, and hung by her clothes from a nail, as well as being chased by people wearing a devil mask on various occasions between 2015 and 2019.

Five of the group made one child dress in lingerie and “dance in a sexualised manner” on various occasions between 1 October 2018 and 19 June 2019, before they were raped by male members of the group.

Instead of intervening to protect the youngster, the women clapped, cheered and encouraged the abuse, with some filming the attack, the trial heard.

Judge Lord Beckett on Thursday warned the abusers to expect a “very substantial prison sentence” for the “grave and repeated” crimes.

He said the “common denominator” for seven of the defendants was the abuse of a “very young child”.

Lord Beckett said: “Some of you have been convicted of sexually abusing three children and some of two children.

“The common denominator was the repeated sexual assault of a very young child, payment was sought and accepted, some of the events were filmed. This extraordinary depravity was repeated on a number of occasions.

“All the sex offences are of extreme gravity and accompanied for some of you by attempted murder.”

He said a risk assessment will be carried out to help decide if an order for lifelong restriction should be imposed. This would monitor high-risk offenders for the rest of their lives if deemed suitable for release from prison after serving a minimum punishment period.

The criteria will look at if the abusers would potentially “seriously endanger the lives or physical or psychological wellbeing of the public at large”.

Lord Beckett added: “It appears to me in the case of each of you may be such there is a likelihood that if at liberty there is a risk you will seriously endanger the lives or physical or psychological wellbeing of the public at large, particularly young children.

“You are not all in the same position. You should understand that each of you faces a very substantial prison sentence.”

Marianne Gallagher, 38, arriving at the High Court in Glasgow for sentencing after being found guilty of assaulting a child. She was cleared of all other charges. (PA)

Owens, Williams and Brannan were also found guilty of drugs offences for supplying diamorphine and cocaine.

An allegation that the group used an Ouija board to “call on spirits and demons” causing the child victims to “believe that they could see, hear and communicate with spirits and demons” and making them take part in “witchcraft” was dropped part way through the trial.

Many of the defendants continued to insist they were innocent with some expecting to be cleared.

Defence advocate Gary Allan KC said Owens maintains his innocence and said he found prison “frightening”.

Forbes believes he will “someday be exonerated”, his lawyer James Wallace told the court, while John Clark “protests his innocence”, Iain McSporran KC told the court.

Watson “maintains his position of denial”, while Williams “maintains her innocence”, the court heard.

The sentencing was adjourned until January 9.

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