First tickets for Edinburgh Festival Fringe to be released

Tickets will be made available from 12 pm on Thursday.

Further programme information is expected to be announced weekly in the run-up to the festival. georgeclerk via IStock
Further programme information is expected to be announced weekly in the run-up to the festival.

The first tickets for over 170 shows at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe are set to be made available.

Tickets for shows will be made available to book from 12 pm on Thursday, event organisers have announced.

Programme details for the festival are due to be set out weekly in the run up to the Fringe, with a range of online and socially distanced in-person shows.

As well as ticketed shows, street events at the Fringe will also be returning this August, it has been confirmed.

ADVERT

Organisers have indicated that one metre social distancing will be in place at shows, whilst masks should be worn indoors and regular hand washing and clear ventilation is strongly advised.

Shona McCarthy, Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society chief executive, said she has been inspired by the way producers and artists have adapted to ongoing Covid-19 restrictions.

“After the year we’ve all had, it brings me an indescribable amount of joy to see Fringe shows going on sale,” she said.

“Fringe operators and artists have been working tirelessly to make this Fringe not only possible, but as safe, accessible and engaging as it can be,” she said.

ADVERT

“Things will, of course, look a little different this year. But embracing the unknown and turning it into something magical is what the Fringe does best.

“I’m excited to see the ways that digital platforms are being used to create exciting, accessible work, and I’m inspired by the way producers and artists have adapted to the ongoing restrictions to bring live performance back to our lives. 

“There’s still work to do, and with the situation ever-changing, we’ll be updating the programme and ticket site weekly.

“I’m proud of the resilience of our Fringe community, and we’re excited to make this festival the very best it can be.”


Drug deaths hit record high in Scotland during pandemic

More than 1300 people died due to drug misuse in Scotland last year, the largest number since records began in 1996.

Stas_V via IStock

More than 1300 people died in Scotland last year as a result of drug misuse – the highest annual figure on record.

Figures published by the National Records of Scotland (NRS) reveal 1339 drug-related deaths in 2020 – a 5% increase on the previous year’s statistics and the largest number since records began in 1996.

It is also the seventh year in a row that drug-related deaths have hit record levels.

The country continues to have the worst drug death rate in Europe, with 21.2 deaths per 1000 of the population, more than three-and-a-half times higher than the rest of the UK.

ADVERT

Greater Glasgow and Clyde had the highest drug-related death rate of all health board areas in 2020, followed by Ayrshire and Arran and Tayside.

Deprivation also continued to be a major factor in drug deaths, with those in the poorest areas of the country 18 times more likely to die than their more affluent counterparts, the data showed.

After adjusting for age, people in the most deprived parts of the country were 18 times as likely to die from a drug-related death as those in the least deprived.

Almost two-thirds of all drug-related deaths were of people aged between 35 and 54. Men were 2.7 times as likely to have a drug-related death than women, after adjusting for age.

ADVERT

And opioids remained the number one cause of drug related death in Scotland last year. The NRS figures show that, of the 1339 people who died from drugs in 2020, 1192 were related in some way to opioids.

However, in a sign that more drug users are mixing substances, benzodiazepines – use of which has soared in recent years due to easy availability – were implicated in 974 deaths in 2020.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the number of lives lost to drugs is “unacceptable”.

She tweeted “Each one is a human tragedy. @scotgov does not shirk the responsibility & we are determined to make changes that will save lives .”

She added: “These 2020 figures (though no less shameful because of it) predate actions set out at start of year.

“We now have a dedicated drugs minister in @AConstanceSNP, a substantial funding commitment and action underway to eg ensure faster access to community support, treatment and rehab.

“We will also continue to argue for reform of drugs law, which is not currently within our power.

ADVERT

“Today, my thoughts are with every family who has lost a loved one – I am sorry for the loss you have suffered. However, I know that from @scotgov what is required isn’t words, but action to prevent people dying, and that is what we are determined to deliver.”

The figures were published just over seven months after figures showed more than 1200 drug-related deaths were recorded in 2019, while 1187 drugs-related deaths recorded in 2018.

Scotland has suffered from the worst drug death rate in Europe, with the number of users dying rising in recent years.

The number of drug-related deaths has increased substantially over the last 20 years – there were four-and-a-half times as many deaths in 2020 compared with 2000.

The Scottish Government last year recognised there was a crisis, appointing Angela Constance to a dedicated drug policy ministerial role following the resignation of Joe FitzPatrick as public health minister.

During the STV leaders’ debate ahead of the Holyrood election in May, Sturgeon said the SNP “took its eye off the ball” over drug deaths, adding that she had set a £250m investment programme to build up rehabilitation services.

Constance said: “Once again, the statistics on drug-related deaths are heart-breaking. I want to offer my sincere condolences to everyone who has lost a loved one through drug use.

“We need to gather as much information as we can about drug use in Scotland and to that end, data on suspected drug deaths will be published quarterly from this September. This will ensure we can react more quickly and effectively to this crisis and identify any emerging trends.

Even before the statistics were published, seven leading drugs charities announced their support for a Bill aimed at enshrining in law the right to the addiction treatment requested by the individual.

The draft legislation, put forward by the Scottish Conservatives would mean residential rehab requested by someone dealing with addiction and cleared by their doctor would have to be accepted, or a reason given with 24 hours of the refusal.

Services would also be put in place for the families of those struggling with addiction, under the Tory Bill.

“The drugs crisis is our national shame. It is a stain on Scotland that so many of our most vulnerable people have been left without hope, crushed by a system that is thoroughly broken.”

Douglas Ross, Scottish Conservative leader

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross described the latest statistics as “horrifying and heartbreaking”.

He said: “The drugs crisis is our national shame. It is a stain on Scotland that so many of our most vulnerable people have been left without hope, crushed by a system that is thoroughly broken. 

“This is not a day for political posturing but it is a simple fact that the government’s small steps are not cutting it. The crisis is getting worse and spiralling out of control. We need a united national effort to make the drastic changes necessary to overhaul the broken system. 

“The Scottish Conservatives are bringing forward a Right to Recovery Bill to guarantee in law that everyone who needs treatment can get it.”

Labour MSP Paul Sweeney said: “The latest drug related deaths figures are devastating but not surprising. We have known for a long time that these were going to be shocking, and I send my sincere condolences, thoughts and prayers to every single person impacted and failed by the doomed war on drugs.

“Behind the numbers are real people; families devastated by the untimely, unnecessary and frankly preventable loss of a loved one. We owe it to them to change the system for good, and that will mean working together regardless of political affiliation.

“The reality is that these figures show one person dying every six and a half hours in Scotland in circumstances that were entirely preventable”

Paul Sweeney, Labour MSP

“I’ve seen first-hand, working with the overdose prevention pilot in Glasgow, the trauma experienced by those with drug dependencies and their families. It’s abundantly clear that we cannot continue with the same failed policies of decades gone by – we need radical action and we need it now. That means decriminalisation of drug possession for personal use and the legalisation of safe consumption facilities as a matter of priority.

“I’m sorry that the system has failed so many people and so many families. The reality is that these figures show one person dying every six and a half hours in Scotland in circumstances that were entirely preventable. Now is the time to fix the system that is so clearly broken, not to score political points. 1339 of our fellow citizens have lost their lives unnecessarily – today is about remembering them and committing to the action required to make sure it never happens again.”

“Issuing apologies now is too late for thousands of people. The victims of drugs and their families were failed. It is a scar on the conscience of this Scottish Government.”

Alex Cole-Hamilton, Scottish Liberal Democrat healthspokesperson

Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton said the deaths are a “scar on the consicence” of the Scottish Government.

He said: “Every drug death is preventable. However, that task became ten times harder when SNP ministers avoided the subject ahead of the independence referendum, as that justice secretary admitted, and then cut the budget for critical prevention services by 22%.

“Help and expertise that people relied upon was needlessly surrendered when it should have been expanded. “It was Nicola Sturgeon’s choice to ignore this unfolding epidemic.

“Issuing apologies now is too late for thousands of people. The victims of drugs and their families were failed. It is a scar on the conscience of this Scottish Government.”

Drug deaths vigil held as Scots figures reach record high

Families and campaigners gathered in Glasgow to remember all the men and women who have lost their lives to drugs.

STV News

A vigil for people who have died as a result of drugs has taken place after Scotland recorded its highest annual number of drug deaths on record.

Families and campaigners gathered to remember all the men and women who have lost their lives to drugs.

The event, organised by Faces and Voices of Recovery, kicked off at 1pm at the Royal Concert Hall Steps on Glasgow’s Buchanan street.

STV News
People pay tribute to those who have lost their lives.

It was scheduled on the same day as the drug death statistics for Scotland as campaigners are calling out for the Scottish Government to do more to prevent the issue.

ADVERT

Drug rehab campaigner Annemarie Ward, who is in long-term recovery from addiction, told the Scottish Government “talk is cheap” as she joined others affected to demand change.

Ms Ward and her group Faces And Voices Of Recovery (Favor) UK has backed Scottish Tory proposals to introduce a Right to Recovery Bill enshrining in law the right of Scots to get the drug treatment they request.

Ms Ward hit out at a speech made at the event by drugs minister Angela Constance in which she referenced the Deacon Blue song Dignity and promised to “climb the mountain and turn the tide” of drug deaths, without pledging any specific action.

Ms Ward said: “I think Angela is doing the rounds. She’s talking to a lot of people and listening to a lot of people, but talk’s cheap.

ADVERT

“We can talk all day long and people can listen all day long, but unless we start to take action, nothing changes.

“Angela was talking about ‘a ship called Dignity’ and she was using a variety of different analogies and I was just like ‘we’ve got a Bill about to come through parliament, Angela – back that Bill, that will change the law and that will prevent our local authorities and our NHS and anybody else who is withholding actual treatment, it will make them actually help people.

“It will force our current system to change and, at the moment, those turkeys aren’t going to vote for Christmas.

“Those services are rationalising, justifying and defending the status quo – they don’t know how to deliver recovery and they need to get the experts in that do.”

Speaking at the emotionally charged memorial service, Ms Constance told the assembled crowd – some of whom had experienced addiction themselves: “My focus is on turning fine words into action.”

She added: “The ship has been sailing in the wrong direction for 20 years and its been getting worse, not better year after year.

“I want to convey to you my utter commitment and what we need is a culture of change and a culture of compassion.

ADVERT

“If you are as old as me, you will remember that song about a ship called Dignity and we all know what it’s going to take to turn that ship around.”

Figures published by the National Records of Scotland (NRS) reveal 1339 drug-related deaths in 2020 – a 5% increase on the previous year’s statistics and represent the largest number since records began in 1996.

The country continues to have the worst drug death rate in Europe, with 21.2 deaths per 1000 of the population, more than three-and-a-half times higher than the rest of the UK.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the number of lives lost to drugs is “unacceptable”.

She tweeted “Each one is a human tragedy. @scotgov does not shirk the responsibility & we are determined to make changes that will save lives .”


‘Darren was just a wee fella whose life went off the rails’

Brother remembered on the day Scotland reveals its latest drug-death figures.

STV News

Donna Morrison tries hard to remember her brother Darren Conway before drugs came into their lives.

But as Scotland revealed record drug-death figures on Friday, what she can’t forget is the chaos his addiction caused.

Darren had been on the brink of going into rehab when lockdown scuppered his chances – within a year, he was dead.

“When we were young, he looked after me, he was my hero,” Donna says. “I’ll be forever grateful for that. He was my brother, Darren Conway, just a wee fella whose life went off the rails.”

ADVERT

‘I lived in hope’

Darren, who’d been staying in a Glasgow hostel, died aged 49 on March 17 following a history of drug addiction stretching back to his early 20s.

Despite having worked before, attempts to save his life using the overdose-reversing medication Naloxone failed, and he died in hospital after suffering a cardiac arrest.

While Donna is still waiting for the results of official toxicology reports to confirm what was in his system, she knows he took heroin, methadone and other substances such as etizolam, known as Street Valium.

ADVERT

“He was my brother,” she says. “I just lived in hope he would one day turn that corner.”

STV News
Darren and Donna

‘The change was drastic’

After growing up in Irvine, North Ayrshire, the siblings left home around the same time – but while Donna only moved three miles away, Darren headed to Glasgow, where his life became caught in a “downward spiral”.

Donna had children and raised a family, losing touch with Darren as he became homeless; sleeping rough and ending up in prison.

“When I got back in contact with him after a gap of around three years, the change was drastic,” she says. “He didn’t even look like my brother anymore. You could tell his lifestyle had consumed him.

“He had Hep C first, then HIV and his girlfriend passed away in 2015 with drugs. She was only 30. He lost one of his good friends to drugs too, but all that never stopped him.

“To me, it wasn’t that he didn’t want help, but getting the right support was difficult.”

ADVERT

‘Hurdles are too high’

In December 2019, Donna learned through social media that Darren had been taken into hospital with a severe chest infection. Together with a friend who was also a drug support worker, plans were made to secure him a rehab place with the charity Teen Challenge.  

“You always know when people want to go into recovery,” the support worker, Darren Anderson, says. “Darren had that spark when he was lying in hospital, but no one has the strength to run before they can walk.

“It’s not even that there are too many hurdles – the hurdles are too high.”

Lockdown

First, Darren had to reduce his methadone intake before he could be accepted for rehab. He managed this in hospital, but as soon as he was discharged, he went “back to square one” as his prescription was increased.

Then the pandemic took hold and the first lockdown was imposed in March 2020 – just as Darren was on the cusp of getting proper help.

“We got the paperwork done, we signed him up, got him linked in with rehab and Darren was buying into it,” recalls Donna. “But as we were under lockdown, I couldn’t travel to Glasgow to see him, so I was ordering shopping and getting a supermarket to deliver it to him at the hostel. 

“In our last phone call, we spoke about the food parcel and I said ‘once restrictions are lifted, I’ll come up and see you’.  

“A couple of weeks later, I got the phone call to say that he was gone.”

Instead of making plans for rehab, Darren Anderson was instead helping to lead a funeral service.

STV News
Darren Anderson

“I don’t even know if there are words to describe how I felt,” he says. “You can lose hope yourself. You think ‘what is the point?’.

“You know you can do good things in your community and can get results. You see people getting better, getting into rehab in the right circumstances, getting the right care plan, and then something like this happens and it sets you back.”

Donna has been left with unanswered questions and wants other families to be spared her pain; she asks herself all the time if she could have done more, or done something differently.

But she says: “I was one person, one person for one other person with huge issues. You can’t do that alone, you need help, you need support, you need consistency.”

‘I hope he’s at peace now’

Donna was allowed to scatter some of Darren’s ashes in the grounds of Sunnybrae in Aberdeen, the rehab centre where it was hoped he would have received help to beat his addiction.  

“They didn’t know Darren, they never even met him, but they are now also allowing us to put a photo of him on their memorial wall,” she says.

STV News
Donna Morrison spreads his brother’s ashes at the rehab centre.

“I don’t know if he’d have made it to rehab or not, but I lived in hope my brother could have turned that corner.

“He has a more settled place in death than he did in life. I hope he’s at peace now.”


Former STV star Glen Michael backs loneliness campaign

The former STV star lost his wife Beryl in 2015.

STV News

By Louise Scott and Lewis McKenzie

Former STV star Glen Michael has backed a new campaign tackling loneliness – having spoken of the challenges he faced following the death of his wife.

The 95-year-old, best known for Glen Michael’s Cartoon Cavalcade which ran for 26 years, lost his wife Beryl in 2015.

He is supporting the campaign by Age Scotland, which aims to tackle loneliness and social isolation among older people, after describing his own experiences.

ADVERT

“It’s when you come home and it’s slightly dark, and you lock the front door, and the television is turned off and you’re sitting on your own and you realise that you are on your own,” he told STV News.

“I have actually sat in the chair many a time and suddenly realised for no reason at all that I was crying.

“And I couldn’t put my finger on why it was and of course over the time I began to realise it’s because you’re lonely, you haven’t go that person beside you that you’ve always been used to.”

Glen got involved in Age Scotland’s campaign, and outlined the importance of letting people know that there is help.

ADVERT

“I thought I must try and say something about it, draw attention to it,” he said.

“At least people sitting at lonely know there is help somewhere, that somebody cares about you.

At the Queen’s garden party, Glen recalled meeting First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who had watched him on TV.

He said: “I realised there was someone standing in front of me and it was Nicola Sturgeon. She said ‘Do I know you?’ and I said well I used to do a television programme.

“She said ‘my god I used to watch you when I was five.’ It made my day and made me feel very old I must admit.

“That’s one of the perks I have and I love it. And the more people that talk to me, I love it.”


James Tavernier urges fans to back players taking the knee

The Rangers captain said that players at the club will continue to take the knee this season to stand against racism.

Craig Williamson via SNS Group
The letter was published on the club's website.

Rangers captain James Tavernier has written an open letter to fans asking them to support players taking the knee.

In a letter published on the club website, the defender said that players would continue to take the knee in order to stand against racism.

Tavernier explained that every one of Rangers’ BAME players were sent racial abuse online during last season.

Glen Kamara was also subjected to racial abuse during the club’s Europa League match against Slavia Prague.

ADVERT

“We brought home ‘55’ last season, in almost record time. However, there were some dark and difficult moments along the way,” Tavernier wrote.

“Sadly, at some stage during the season, every one of our BAME players received racist abuse online. That is a sad indictment on society and shows just how much work still needs to be done to eradicate it.

“Add in the fact one of our players received sickening racist abuse on the pitch. Racism is a problem in football, that is an inarguable fact.

“As a team and as a club, we must not only stand up against racism, but fight against it- every single day. Whenever our players were abused last season, the way in which our fanbase stood behind us was nothing short of amazing.”

“It is a symbolic stance against racism, nothing more and nothing less.”

James Tavernier, Rangers captain
ADVERT

Tavernier said that the gesture of taking the knee is a “symbolic” one against racism.

He wrote: “Many people have given arguments for and against certain political organisations. Arguments against their actions, and what they purport to stand for.

“I’ve no interest in all that, neither do my teammates or coaching staff. We will take the knee to stand against racism, nothing more, and nothing less.

“That is why we will take the knee prior to our games. This is a very simple, but we hope, effective gesture. It is a symbolic stance against racism, nothing more and nothing less.”

The Rangers captain said that he cannot wait to hear the roar of the fans at Ibrox.

He added: “At the start of each game this season, and throughout the 90 minutes, please show the world exactly why you are a special fan base. Support every player who is proud to wear the badge of the famous RFC.

“We are as strong as strong can be. I cannot wait to hear you roar from the stands of Ibrox Park.”


Theatre at risk of closure given £6.5m funding for revamp

The theatre was at risk of closure.

© Google Maps 2020
The grant from the Government allows a public fundraiser to be launched.

One of Scotland’s biggest theatres has been given nearly £7m in government funding for a revamp, after fears it was going to close its doors. 

The King’s Theatre in Edinburgh was at risk of closure before being handed a lifeline after the Scottish Government agreed to fund a £6.5m grant. 

The theatre, which was opened in 1906 and is run by Capital Theatres, is in need of a vital refurbishment to avoid closing its doors.

The original £25m funding for the overhaul of the theatre was depleted in order for the venue to stay in operation during the course of the pandemic. 

ADVERT

The refurbishment can now commence after receiving the government grant, as well as £4m secured from the City of Edinburgh Council and loan funding.

The rest of the project’s budget is made up of donations from individuals, grants from trusts and foundations, support from companies, and Capital Theatres’ own income.

The grant from the Government allows a public fundraiser to be launched, and an application to the National Lottery Heritage Fund is currently moving into its second stage.

The project is set to start in September 2022, with the theatre planning to reopen in the middle of 2024 and continue to be a hub in the Edinburgh community.

ADVERT

The theatre is a key venue for touring dramas, musicals, and children’s shows and is home to Scotland’s biggest annual pantomime production – as well as hosting events at the Edinburgh International Festival.

Fiona Gibson, CEO of Capital Theatres, said: “We’re overjoyed with this show of support and confidence in the King’s redevelopment project from the Scottish Government.

“As Covid-19 hit in March 2020, Capital Theatres announced that the redevelopment of the King’s would be paused for a year whilst we dealt with the impact of the pandemic.

“Far from losing momentum on the project, 15 months of closure has made us all the more determined to ensure the King’s Theatre can honour its illustrious past with a thriving future at the heart of Edinburgh and Scotland’s cultural life.

“Not only a wonderful venue for joy and inspiration but the King’s will also offer a thriving hub by day for the many communities situated in and around Tollcross.

“The Scottish Government’s grant, along with the grant and loan funding from the City of Edinburgh Council, makes this project viable. 

“This funding stands alongside the National Lottery Heritage Fund grant we are working so hard to secure, and the tireless efforts of our development team.

ADVERT

“There is, however, still a way to go to reach our financial target and we’ll be launching a public fundraising campaign later in the year.

“This last push will build on the generous support shown during our period of closure, so the people of Edinburgh and Scotland can continue to play their part by helping us secure the future of the King’s as a historical and cultural treasure.”

The Scottish Government’s culture minister, Jenny Gilruth, said: “The King’s Theatre has been a jewel in Edinburgh’s cultural crown for more than 100 years, with generations of audiences enjoying a rich diversity of shows from its annual pantomimes to world premieres at the Edinburgh International Festival.

“The Scottish Government is pleased to support the redevelopment of the grade A-listed theatre and enable the King’s Theatre to reach out to a wider range of audience and increase its community engagement.”


Six people charged in crackdown on wildlife crime

The alleged incidents all took place in the north east in the past month.

Owen Humphreys via PA Ready
Police have charged six people.

Police have charged six people with poaching offences as part of a drive against wildlife crime, codenamed Operation Wingspan.

The alleged incidents all took place in the north east in the past month.

Four men were alleged to have been fishing without permission at the River Deveron at around 8.50pm on Monday July 5.

The river is routinely used to fish for salmon and trout and requires a permit to do so legally.

ADVERT

Following inquiries, four men were traced and charged in connection with the incident and a report has been submitted to the Procurator Fiscal.

In a separate incident, officers received a report of possible salmon poaching in the Craigellachie area of Aberlour around 5pm on Saturday July 24.

Two boys, aged 14 and 16, have been charged in connection with this.

Police Constable Hannah Haywood, the North East’s wildlife crime liaison officer, said: “Operation Wingspan is a campaign to prevent wildlife crime. As part of this, we also work closely with partners to raise awareness of these types of offences and their impact.

ADVERT

“Fish poaching can be highly damaging and impacts Scotland’s vulnerable fish stocks.

“Anyone with any concerns around wildlife crime in their area is asked to report it to officers.”


Man who threatened MP Joanna Cherry on Twitter sentenced

Cherry contacted police over a threat on February 1, the day she was dropped from her party’s front bench team at Westminster.

Jonathan Brady via PA Ready
Threats: SNP MP Joanna Cherry.

A man who sent threatening Twitter messages to SNP MP Joanna Cherry has been ordered not to contact her for five years.

Grant Karte, 30, has also been given a community payback order, supervised for 15 months, with 160 hours of unpaid work in the community.

Cherry contacted police over a threat on February 1, the day she was dropped from her party’s front bench team at Westminster in a reshuffle.

Karte, 30, previously admitted sending Twitter messages on February 1 that were “grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character” in that he repeatedly threatened Cherry contrary to the Communications Act 2003.

ADVERT

Sentencing Karte at Edinburgh Sheriff Court on Friday, Sheriff Alistair Noble said: “You pled guilty to a serious charge, a charge involving threatening a member of parliament.

“Your threat carried implications of violence and one interpretation of what was said was sexual violence.”

Sheriff Noble said he took the view that it was not necessary to impose a period of custody and imposed a community payback order instead, but warned Karte that if he breaches the order he will have to return to court.

Cherry, the Edinburgh South West MP, had been the SNP justice and home affairs spokeswoman at Westminster until the reshuffle in February.

ADVERT

Sheriff Noble also imposed a five-year non-harassment order on Karte which bars him from contacting Cherry from July 30.

Defence agent Simon Collins, representing Karte, said a psychiatric report prepared ahead of the sentencing was positive and “reflects on his regret and remorse regarding the incident.”


Priest who sexually abused two schoolboys jailed

Denis Alexander preyed on the boys during yoga classes and at his study in Fort Augustus Abbey school in the Highlands.

STV News
Alexander preyed on the boys during yoga classes and at his study.

A priest who was brought back from Australia has been jailed for four years and five months for sexually abusing two former pupils at a school more than four decades ago.

Former monk Denis Alexander, 85, assaulted the children while teaching at Fort Augustus Abbey school in the Highlands during the 1970s.

Alexander preyed on the boys during yoga classes and at his study in the institution.

A judge told him at the High Court in Edinburgh: “You have brought lasting shame on the Order of which you were a member.

ADVERT

“You plead guilty to the sexual abuse of two young boys who were between 12 and 14 in 1973 until 1976. You were 37 to 40 years of age at the time.

“That abuse is aggravated by the age of your victims and position of trust and authority resulting from your status as a teacher and as a monk.

“These vulnerable young boys were entrusted to your care and what you did was a gross abuse of the trust placed in you as a teacher.”

Lord Burns said it was also in “flagrant disregard” of the principles and beliefs which Alexander was duty bound to follow as a Benedictine monk.

ADVERT

The judge acknowledged that he had no criminal record prior to or since the offending and was now in poor health.

He told him he would have faced a five-and-a-half year prison term but for his guilty pleas. Lord Burns backdated the sentence to January 23, 2017. Alexander has been in custody since then.

The judge told the Australian citizen that he would be subject to deportation. Alexander later left Scotland and became a priest in Sydney where he initially contested a bid to extradite over his crimes.

Efforts to bring him to justice after a BBC documentary called Sins of Our Fathers was shown in 2013. His victims found the courage to contact the police.

Alexander was returned to Scotland almost three years after an extradition request was first sent to the Australian authorities.

He admitted two charges of indecent behaviour against the boys at the High Court in Edinburgh last month after being brought into the building in a wheelchair.

Advocate depute Jane Farquharson QC told the court: “These offences committed by this accused Denis Alexander are a snapshot of what is believed to be wider systemic abuse of children within the Fort Augustus Abbey School and its preparatory school Carlekemp, also run by the Benedictine Order.

ADVERT

The prosecutor said the school was a subject of the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry during 2019 and the English Benedictine Congregation accepted physical and sexual abuse of children took place.

Alexander was known as Father Chrysotum when he taught at the Highland institution, where he also tutored pupils in bagpipe playing.

His first victim, now aged 60, was about 13-years-old when Alexander summoned him to his study and pushed his hand down the victim’s trousers and molested him between September 1973 and June 1974.

The second victim, now aged 58, was subjected to abuse  after the monk asked him to join a yoga group which was held in part of the monastery.

He was aged around 12 to 13 at the time of the abuse in the mid 1970s.He found himself alone with Alexander who molested him while he was supporting the boy in a headstand.

The pupil was also forced to carry out a sex act on him.

He told the headteacher, but the police did not become involved.

Alexander left the school during the 1970s and stopped being a practising Benedictine monk, but remained a priest and moved to Australia.

Ms Farquharson said: “He came to the attention of the police as a result of a BBC documentary screened in the summer of 2013 called Sins of Our Fathers that focused on life within both institutions.” 

The Crown Office requested his extradition in August 2016 and a warrant was issued by an Australian court in January the following year.

But Alexander did not consent to his return to Scotland to face justice.

After further legal proceedings he did not continue to fight the move and came back to the UK in January 2020.

Ms Farquharson said: “Significant delays were occasioned in bringing the accused to Scotland as a result of his opposition to the extradition process.”

Defence solicitor advocate Shahid Latif said: “He is sorry and he can do no more than he has done and that is to have plead guilty.”

He said that Alexander had been in “a stressful working environment” at the time of the offending and worked long hours seven days a week.

Alexander watched today’s sentencing proceedings via a video link to prison.

He was placed on the sex offenders’ register indefinitely.


You're up to date

You've read today's top stories. Where would you like to go next?