A victim support charity has condemned appeal court judges for cutting the jail sentence of a violent stalker ruling that the love letters and phone calls he bombarded his ex-partner with weren’t particularly unpleasant.
Paul McLean was locked up for brutally assaulting his girlfriend Lynn Suttie in 2013, leaving her with a shattered jaw.
But he defied a court order banning him from contacting her and stalked her from behind bars.
In January, Perth Sheriff Court heard that he phoned her house dozens of times and wrote to her, demanding photographs.
And when he was freed early from prison, he turned up at the hairdresser’s home in Kinross.
Jailing him for 30 months, Sheriff Fiona Tait told 45-year-old McLean: “The stalking is a serious matter. In a short period after your release from prison you were in breach of the non-harassment order. For them to have meaning and offer protection they must be adhered to.”
Now lawyers for McLean have successfully managed to get his sentence reduced to just 18 months after taking his case to the Court of Criminal Appeals in Edinburgh, meaning he is likely to be released before the end of the year.
A leading victim support charity said it was “amazed” McLean’s sentenced had been reduced.
In his judgment, Lord Carloway, the Lord Justice Clerk, agreed that McLean needed to be sent to prison, but said Sheriff Tait’s sentence was “excessive”.
He said: “The court agrees with the sheriff that the only appropriate sentence for these offences was a custodial one of some considerable duration.
“Each offence must be regarded as significant when seen against the background of the previous conviction for assault to serious injury.
“Nevertheless, there is substance in this submission that each of these sentences is excessive.
“As was stressed by appellant (McLean), the contact was ostensibly of a conciliatory tone, which differentiated it from an unpleasant or aggressive harassment.”
The non-harassment order against McLean will remain in place, however.
Geri Burnikell, coordinator at Supportline, said: “We are amazed that the sentence has been reduced.
“It is totally irrelevant the nature of the contacts he mad. It was clear this was a sustained period of harassment and as such would have caused enormous distress.”
She added: “The emotional effect of stalking and harassment can be long-lasting and we would have thought that on appeal the sentence should have increased and not reduced.
“It is sad to see that some judges clearly have no real understanding of the issue, which further compounded the suffering of the victim seeing sentencing reduced in this way.”
The appeal court heard that while at Perth prison, McLean made some 60-70 calls to Miss Suttie “leaving messages of an apparently affectionate nature on her answering machine”.
He also sent seven letters, one of which asked Miss Suttie to tell the procurator fiscal that she had exaggerated her assault allegations.
Miss Suttie was “terrified” when McLean visited her home in June last year, four days after he was freed from prison.
McLean had attacked his partner of 13 years in April 2013 after a row about his amphetamine abuse. He broke her jaw in two places with a single punch.
He was told the relationship was over shortly afterwards.