LORD Abernethy (formerly Alastair Cameron QC), who became a judge in 1992, is highly experienced in conducting criminal trials and is regarded as a light sentencer.

In 1998 women's groups reacted angrily after he jailed a man for 12 months for raping his wife on Mother's Day while holding a knife at her throat. Campaigners described the sentence as ''completely inadequate'' and ''appallingly light''.

In 1999, in what was a similar decision to yesterday's case, he directed a jury to find a teenager not guilty of raping a 14-year-old girl on a garage forecourt because she had not been overcome by force of some threat of force.

Lord Abernethy, 63, is widely recognised as being unfailingly polite and patient on the bench.

He was vice-dean of the Faculty of Advocates from 1983-92 and specialised in medical negligence cases.

He served as the fourth judge at Camp Zeist, in effect a ''reserve'' in case one of his colleagues took ill or died, but he did not vote on any of the decisions in the case involving the two Libyans accused of the Lockerbie bombing.

Lord Abernethy was educated at St Mary's School, Melrose, Glenalmond College, Perth, and then Pembroke College in Oxford. He was called to the bar in 1963 and admitted as a member of the Faculty of Advocates in 1966.

He became a QC after serving as an advocate-depute from 1972-75 and acting as junior counsel to the department of energy from 1976-79, and the Scottish Development Department from 1978-79.