ST MIRREN have expressed their “deep regret” over Paul McGowan’s conviction for police assault after their midfield playmaker avoided a jail sentence yesterday.
McGowan was ordered to carry out 130 hours of unpaid work and has been placed under a one-year supervision order for assaulting two police officers in August last year.
The 26-year-old, who had a previous conviction for police assault, was informed by Sheriff Frank Pieri that his punishment is a direct alternative to a custodial sentence.
McGowan, who has been a hugely influential player for St Mirren since joining them from Celtic three and a half years ago, is now free to continue his career with the Paisley club.
St Mirren issued a brief statement following McGowan’s sentencing at Airdrie Sheriff Court yesterday, condemning his conduct but pledging to play a part in his rehabilitation on and off the pitch.
“Today’s sentencing brings this deeply regrettable matter to a close,” read the statement. “We have been very clear that we do not condone Paul’s actions in any way. Everyone involved with St Mirren Football Club is fully aware that we expect them to act in accordance with our commitment to respect and tolerance in our community.
“Paul knows what he did was wrong and completely unacceptable. As a club, our long-term objective is to help him learn from his behaviour and move on with his life and career and, as such, we have no further comment to make.”
In court last month, McGowan admitted kicking police constable Edward Gilmartin and repeatedly kicking police constable Tony Fitzpatrick in Airdrie and at Coatbridge Police Station on 11 August. He had not guilty pleas accepted to kicking Special Constable Martine McNee on the body and acting in a threatening and abusing manner likely to cause fear and alarm.
In court yesterday, Sheriff Pieri made it clear to McGowan that he was fortunate not to be spending time behind bars.
“People who act in this way towards police officers can expect a prison sentence, especially with someone like your record,” he said. “However, I am prepared to deal with you in this way as a direct alternative to custody.”
McGowan’s solicitor Mark Lutton told Sheriff Pieri that the incident was an “impulsive reaction by a young man that was drunk”.
Lutton added: “His behaviour was totally inappropriate and he totally accepts and recognises it as such.
“He fully accepts his wrongdoing. He is able to recognise the role excessive alcohol has played. He does not offer that as an excuse but to explain his behaviour. He is thoroughly ashamed.
“He is full of regret and remorse and offers his full apology to both the court and to the police officers concerned.”
The court also heard that despite his record, McGowan was rated as being only of a “low-risk of re-offending”.
The sentence of 130 hours of unpaid work was reduced from 170 hours on account of his early guilty plea, but McGowan was told that as part of his community payback order he may have to meet with the Meridian Alcohol Counselling service.
Outside court, McGowan said: “I’m not allowed to say anything but I would have taken that if you’d have asked me.”
McGowan initially joined
St Mirren on a season-long loan deal from Celtic in the summer of 2010, before making a permanent move in 2011. Last season, he scored in Saints’ League Cup semi-final win over Celtic and was then named Man of the Match when they defeated Hearts 3-2 in the Hampden final to lift the club’s first major trophy for 26 years.
Despite interest from clubs in England, McGowan signed a new one-year contract with St Mirren as he did not wish to uproot his family.
Speaking last week, McGowan had expressed his confidence that he would not receive a custodial sentence. “It’s been a difficult few weeks for me,” said McGowan. “But the club have helped me and it will all get sorted soon. But my mind is at ease a wee bit and hopefully it will go all right.
“Coming into training has been a release for me. Apart from football, I’ve got nothing on my mind when I’m here. It’s weird, I just don’t worry about anything when I am playing football. More will come out in a couple of weeks, but I can’t really say more at this stage – I’m not allowed to. But I’m not too worried. I sort of know what will happen so I’m not stressing out too much.”
McGowan also received the backing of St Mirren manager Danny Lennon as he awaited the outcome of the legal process.
“Everyone makes mistakes throughout life and it’s about cashing in on the lessons they teach you,” said Lennon. “Paul’s not a bad lad. In fact, he’s a lovable wee character. He just loves playing football. He would kick a ball about 24 hours a day.
“Maybe that’s how we calm him down – just put a ball at his feet and let him run about all day. Don’t get me wrong, you never like to see trouble coming to your door and I want my players to go out there fully focused on their job. However, all that has happened has not really hampered Paul.”