HMA v RACHEL MARGARET COWLEY

At the High Court in Edinburgh Lord Bannatyne imposed an extended sentence of ten years on Rachel Cowley after she pled guilty to the culpable homicide of her daughter Isabelle Erin Cowley. The sentence consists of a custodial term of five years and six months and an extended period of four years and six months.

On sentencing Lord Bannatyne made the following statement in court:

“In this case you have pled guilty by way of section 76 of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995 to a charge of culpable homicide, namely:  the killing of your four year old child Isabelle.

What happened on the day of this incident was a dreadful tragedy as your daughter was deprived at such an early age of her life.   Over and above that, as is set out in the Crown narrative, all of the family members have been devastated by the enormous loss they have sustained resulting from the death of Isabelle.

These factors make this charge a very serious one and I have had regard to these factors in considering the appropriate sentence.

However, there are a number of mitigating factors which I believe can properly be had regard to when considering the appropriate level of sentence:

1.         You are otherwise broadly of good character.

2.         You have no previous convictions.

3.         Up to the date of this offence as I understand it you looked after Isabelle well and you were a loving and caring parent.

4.         The plea of guilty to culpable homicide was accepted by the Crown on the basis that at the time of these events yours responsibility for your actings was diminished due to an abnormality of the mind being present.

5.         From the psychiatric and other reports I have had sight of it appears that at the time of this offence you suffered from a personality disorder of a mixed type, comprising borderline anxious and dependent features.

6.         These abnormal features are suggestive of someone with life-long vulnerabilities.

7.         This abnormality of mind very significantly reduced your responsibility for your actings at the material time.

In addition to the foregoing there is the following which I have to have regard to in considering the appropriate sentence and that is the risk assessment in the Criminal Justice Social Work Report.   That Report states that the risk of your re-offending and causing harm is high and that you present a real danger to any child of a future union.

Having given consideration to all of the factors in this case, I have decided that the appropriate sentence is an extended sentence of ten years, consisting of a custodial term of five years and six months (reduced from eight years to take account of your early plea) and an extension period of four years and six months and I will backdate this sentence to 24th February 2011.

During the extension period you will be on licence for five years on conditions fixed by the Scottish Ministers.   If you fail to comply with the conditions, the licence may be revoked and you may be returned to custody; and you may also be sentenced for an offence committed while on licence.”