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Case Update (McGowan) - The Guilty Act

McGowan - Appeal Against Sentence, Murder,

In The Guilty Act we look at a number of cases that are challenging and give us reason to pause. One of those is the murder of Claire Inglis by Christopher McGowan.

In May, McGowan put forward an appeal against sentence. McGowan received a life sentence for the murder of Claire Inglis and was given a minimum sentence of 23 years. This means that he must remain in prison for this length of time before he can be considered for release. 

 This appeal focuses on “whether a miscarriage of justice has occurred by virtue of the sentence being excessive” as a weapon such as a knife had not been used during the murder. As many of you will be aware of from attending The Guilty Act, I do discuss the injuries that Claire suffered. I never wish to upset my attendees, however I feel a duty to the individuals at the heart of our cases to share the facts as accurately as possible. I wish to respect Claire as a person and to recognise what she endured on 28th November 2021.

In the Sentencing Appeal, it is included that the “The trial judge reports that nothing that he could say could convey the true horror of the death.” Whilst, a knife was not used against Claire, different objects were and separate methods of inflicting pain were as well. This was an extremely brutal murder which demonstrates a sustained level of violence.  

The High Court of Appeal have refused McGowan’s appeal and have stated “The court does not consider this punishment part of 23 years to be excessive, given the brutality of the attack, the appellant’s extensive criminal record and the domestic context in which the murder took place.” I agree whole-heartedly with this. 

However, during this appeal of sentence, additional sentencing for domestic violence was also briefly considered as well. McGowan received 22 years for the offence and an additional 1 year sentence for two aggravations (factors that can be seen to make the offence worse.) One, for the fact this offence was committed while released on bail and secondly, as to reflect the domestic violence demonstrated in this offence. Interestingly, the Lord Carloway, Lord Matthews & Lady Wise even question whether this is enough: “Given the terms of the 2016 Act, this may not be the correct approach. It results in the penalty attributable to the aggravation being seen as very slight (less than 5% of the total sentence).”

Do you agree- is this too lenient?

In April, the Crown Office (Scotland's Prosecution Service) was criticised for its communication with domestic abuse victims by the HM Inspectorate of Prosecution in Scotland.  The Scottish Crime and Justice Survey of 2019/2020 found that 16.5% of adults said they had experienced at least one incident of partner abuse since the age of 16. With domestic abuse still such a prevalent issue across Scotland, is it being viewed as an enough of an aggravation by the Courts?

Would harsher sentencing reduce the pervasiveness of domestic abuse across Scotland? On first reflections, I am not convinced. Yet, an interesting question especially with the on-going issues that the Prison system face, but that is perhaps for another blog!

I have had quite a few attendees reach out to me about Claire's case - as they have been moved, or have wanted to pass along case updates that they have seen, etc, for which I am grateful. Whilst, I have no connection to or know Claire or her family, this is a case that has affected me. The original sentencing statement by Judge O' Grady is perhaps one of the most upsetting that I have read. As I look at my son tonight, I reflect on all of the life moments and memories that have been taken from Claire, from her son, from her family and friends.  Whilst, everything changed in an instant for Claire's community on that night, the consequences of McGowan's actions will continue to flow and affect many for years to come.



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