Update – Changed his name to Wes Nichol and sentenced to prison for further sexual offences – Click this link to view

2006 update – Norman Nichol was sentenced to three years’ probation. Nichol was found guilty of three counts of lewd and libidinous behaviour against children. 

September 2006

Convicted paedophile walks free from court, while mother who yelled a protest is locked in a cell.

A MOTHER who voiced her anger in court after a convicted paedophile walked free was hauled off to spend a night in a police cell.

The distraught mother of four yelled in protest from the public gallery when the child abuser was granted bail.

Moments later, police officers surrounded then handcuffed her before charging her with breach of the peace.

Norman Nichol had just been convicted of a string of sex offences against young children but was allowed to walk free pending sentencing in three weeks’ time.

It is possible that the former painter will be spared jail – but the angry mother was thrown in a cell following her protest after police deemed her a threat to public safety.

Last night the decision to lock her up was fiercely criticised as another example of the confused priorities that have plunged the Scottish justice system into chaos.

The 48- year- old woman claims Nichol abused her daughter, now 24, when she was seven, though Nichol’s not guilty plea to that accusation was accepted by the Crown.

But Nichol, 39, was convicted at Lanark Sheriff Court of four charges of lewd and libidinous behaviour against other children and put on the sex offenders’ register.

But when Nichol, from Carluke, Lanarkshire, was freed to await sentence, it sparked anger in the public gallery.

The furious mother yelled ‘ beast’ after learning Nichol would go free and within seconds found herself being handcuffed by up to five officers and charged with breach of the peace.

Last night the mother, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said: ‘I couldn’t believe what was happening – suddenly I was surrounded by four or five officers who put handcuffs on me.

‘I was so angry when I realised he was being allowed to walk free.

There is no way someone accused of crimes so serious should be allowed to walk the streets.

‘So I shouted out “beast” and the next thing I knew I was being charged with breach of the peace. I think a system that allows this to happen is an absolute disgrace.’ The mother was initially told she would be let out, but police told her moments later that she would be detained overnight to appear before the sheriff the next morning. She was held in a cell with another woman accused of a serious assault.

The following morning, police told her she would not have to appear in court and would be allowed to walk free.

‘The police were reasonably sympathetic and told me it was the fiscal’s decision to put me in a cell and then they had changed their mind,’ she said.

‘I’ve never been so afraid in my whole life.’ She added: ‘My daughter was very upset he pleaded not guilty.

My solicitor told me he probably won’t even get a jail sentence.’ Last night SNP justice spokesman Kenny MacAskill said the decision to lock up the mother was ‘entirely disproportionate.’ He added: ‘There has to be dignity and decorum in court, but when a distraught mother feels there has been a manifest injustice, I think common sense and basic humanity necessitate a lenient approach.’ Margaret Mitchell, justice spokesman for the Scottish Tories, said: ‘There is certainly understandable public frustration about the European law which means people accused of serious crimes are bailed.

‘You would expect this kind of case to be managed in a more sympathetic way – perhaps she should have been given a warning and a chance to settle down rather than being put in a cell.’ The parents of Nicol’s victims are campaigning for tougher sentences for child sex offenders and have written to Lord Hardie, one of Scotland’s top judges.

Last month, Lord Hardie criticised the system after it was revealed that paedophile James Steele, 28, of Cambuslang, Lanarkshire, befriended a family while on licence so he could sexually abuse their 12-year-old son.

Last year, a Scottish Daily Mail investigation revealed that the average sentence for people convicted of serious sexual crimes in 2003 was nearly a year shorter than for the same offences six years previously.

A Strathclyde Police spokesman said: ‘A 48-year-old woman spent the night in the cells after a breach of the peace. No proceedings are being taken.’ Last night, court sources insisted the decision to detain the woman was entirely a matter for the police and had not been initiated by prosecutors.

A Crown Office spokesman added: ‘After careful consideration of all the available facts and circumstances, the fiscal ordered that she be liberated.’