Dundee FC star Paul McGowan today dodged jail after he admitted spitting on a bouncer during a drunken nightclub rammy after his side’s player of the year awards do – despite it being his fifth assault rap.
The 30-year-old former Celtic midfielder was being thrown out of Dundee’s Underground nightclub in the city’s South Tay Street when the vile attack occurred.
Dundee Sheriff Court today heard the thug was being “ejected due to his aggressive behaviour towards other patrons” when he turned and spat on bouncer Andrew MacLaughlan.
But despite his multiple previous convictions for police assault, assault, breach of the peace and threatening and abusive behaviour McGowan avoided jail and instead was placed on an electronic tag, ordered to carry out unpaid work in the community and pay his victim £200 compensation.
A sheriff told him: “It is by a narrow margin you are avoiding a custodial sentence.”
McGowan – who turned up 29 minutes late for his court appearance – sat with club chairman John Nelms in the public benches as he awaited his case being called.
Neither McGowan nor Nelms would comment on the case as they left the courtroom following the sentencing hearing.
Fiscal depute Laura Bruce told Dundee Sheriff Court that McGowan had been spotted spitting on Mr MacLaughlan at around 1.45am on the street outside the nightclub.
She said: “Mr MacLaughlan and another door steward were escorting Mr McGowan up the stairs from the locus.
“He was seen on CCTV as clearly not happy and he kept approaching the door.
“He then spat on Mr MacLaughlan as he walked back down the stairs.”
McGowan, 30, of Kelvin Drive, Airdrie, pleaded guilty on summary complaint to a charge of assaulting Andrew MacLaughlan by spitting on him.
Defence solicitor Elaine Rae said McGowan, a father-of-one, had claimed he had been punched moments before the spitting attack.
She said: “He had been at a player of the year awards ceremony at a hotel and had gone to the nightclub with a number of team mates.
“On exiting the nightclub he was punched in the back of the head and that caused the commotion in the first place.
“During that commotion, he spat at the individual who had punched him but instead hit Mr MacLaughlan.
“He fully appreciates that is no excuse and accepts full responsibility for his actions.
“His behaviour was fuelled by the consumption of alcohol.
“He very rarely goes out drinking and he recognises the complainer was only doing his job.
“There’s clearly a correlation between his consumption of alcohol and this behaviour.
“Fortunately there was no physical harm caused though I don’t seek to minimise his conduct.”
Sheriff John Rafferty imposed a community payback order with 12 months supervision, 200 hours of unpaid work and £200 compensation to McGowan’s victim.
He also placed McGowan on an electronic tag requiring him to be at his home address between 7pm and 7am on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights for the next two months.
The sheriff said that was so McGowan could continue to play midweek matches and carry out coaching duties in Dundee’s youth setup during the week.
He said: “Unlike many other people who appear in these courts you are someone who has a particular skill and talent – an advantage in life.
“Notwithstanding that you have been before the criminal courts on a number of occasions since 2010.
“Several of these are for crimes of violence and you have previously had the advantage of community based alternatives.
“The court has to impose a sentence which deters others from conduct of that nature.
“Obviously one such deterrent is a custodial sentence.
“However, I am persuaded there may be an alternative in this instance.”
McGowan – who also previously starred for Hamilton and St Mirren – was signed for Dundee by Paul Hartley in 2014 and has played over 120 games for the club since, scoring six goals.
He turned down a move to local rivals St Johnstone – who finished above the Dees last season – earlier this year before signing an extended contract with the Dens Park side.
In 2015 he admitted his third police assault charge and narrowly avoided a jail term.
Airdrie Sheriff Court heard how in that instance McGowan “charged at officers” called to a disturbance before kicking a cop who had detained him at Coatbridge police station.
In 2013 he also dodged jail over a police assault – being handed 130 hours of community service and a year’s supervision.
He also has another previous assault rap from 2013 and a further police attack conviction from 2010.
Sentencing him in 2015 a Sheriff Derek O’Carroll told McGowan: “You have a hostile attitude to police and your solicitor is right to say you are on the cusp of custody.”