HMA v James McGowan

At the High Court in Glasgow today, 15 March 2017, Lady Scott sentenced James McGowan to life imprisonment with a punishment part of 18 years after the accused was found guilty of the murder of Owen Brannigan.

On sentencing, Lady Scott made the following statement in court:

“James McGowan, you have been convicted by the jury of two charges, assault and murder.

The deceased Mr Brannigan appears to have been a target of violence and hatred on the part of your family.

Notwithstanding the fact that you had long left the country and had no contact with the deceased, you took it upon yourself, on a brief visit home for your mother’s funeral in 1999, to seek out the deceased and murder him in a premeditated act of revenge.

The evidence shows that when you confronted Mr Brannigan he was heavily affected by alcohol and was asleep or in a condition where he was not in a position to defend himself.

He was stabbed by you as he sat slumped in a chair. You stabbed him 11 times: four stab wounds were found on the right side of the neck with one penetrating downwards deep into his chest cutting the jugular vein, and another wound cut another major artery.

In addition there were stab wounds to the front of his body, one penetrating the right lung, another causing injury to the pericardial sac around the heart, and another through the stomach.

This was a brutal, cowardly and murderous attack. You fled the scene and the country and, in your words, you thought you had got away with it.

You left a family bereft and devastated at their loss. The victim impact statements show, all these years later, they continue to struggle and still require considerable professional support.

Within those years the mother and a brother of the deceased passed away, absent any resolution as to his murder.

The evidence suggested that when you confessed on the confidential helpline many years later, you only did so in the belief the calls were not being recorded or would not be reported.

At the time you were clearly suffering from depression and were suicidal. You dispute the truth of what you said in the calls and today continue to deny responsibility.

On the other hand, I take into account that you have no history of violence. You have been a hard worker for all of your adult life and a good family man.

It is about 18 years since the commission of this crime and you have not offended. You are now 57 years old. These are significant factors in mitigation.

I also take into account the delay in this case and the long period you have spent in detention pending trial.

Balancing all of these factors on charge 1 I admonish you and on the charge of murder I sentence you to life imprisonment with a punishment part of 18 years.

This sentence will be backdated to 18 December 2013 – the date of your detention in Australia pending your extradition.” 

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