Teen who fled custody and assaulted officers avoids jail term

Steven McGovern absconded while in custody. Picture: PA/Police Scotland
Steven McGovern absconded while in custody. Picture: PA/Police Scotland

A teenager, who escaped from Edinburgh Sheriff Court after persuading G4S officers to remove handcuffs from his injured arm and then assaulted three police officers when they tracked him down to a flat in Granton, has escaped a custodial sentence.

Eighteen-year old Steven McGovern, a prisoner at Polmont Brightons, pled guilty previously to the offences and the case was continued until today for a Social Work report.

Fiscal Depute, Anna Robertson, told Sheriff Kathrine Mackie, McGovern had been admitted to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary with an arm injury following a crash on a motor cycle.

He had been charged with the theft of a motor cycle and was arrested by officers on the morning of July 10 this year. He appeared in the Sheriff Court later that day with a sling on his left arm.

The Fiscal said that McGovern had not been double-cuffed on the way to the prison van because of the arm injury, but was single-cuffed on his right arm.

Ms Robertson added: “As the accused approached the escort van he said he would not be able to climb the steps into the van without the handcuffs being removed.

“The accused was then released from the single cuffs by the prison officers and immediately after the handcuffs were removed, he ran away. The prison officers were unable to catch him”.

Eight days later police officers went to a flat in the Granton area. When they knocked on the door, a woman answered, told them McGovern was not there and shut the door.

The officers were in possession of a search warrant and knocked at the door again. It was answered by McGovern’s partner, who said he was not there, but she “reluctantly” let them in.

An officer, searching a bedroom, came across a pile of clothes on the floor. The Fiscal said the officer “felt an object and uncovered the accused”.

She continued: “The accused said ‘watch this’ and head-butted the officer on the face”.

Another officer was kicked on the stomach and a third, head-butted and kicked. In addition, McGovern called them “f.....g poofs” and “f.....ng fairies”.

Defence solicitor, Steven Donald, admitted his client’s behaviour had been “extremely unpleasant” and added that it was difficult to believe he was only 18 given his record.

The Social Worker dealing with the case had “in-depth knowledge” on McGovern. She felt it was important to get him away from his peer group, because there had been periods when he had not been in trouble, because he had not been in contact with them.

Mr Donald said his client had matured as he now had a daughter and in his time at Polmont had volunteered to take part in a programme of parenting skills and felt it was beneficial. “He knows he’s at the Last Chance saloon”.

Sheriff Mackie said the case had attracted extensive media coverage. The Social Worker, she said, had produced a very detailed and balanced report acknowledging McGovern’s lack of compliance and recognising that a custodial sentence must be foremost in the Court’s mind, but she offered a “robust package”.

The report, said the Sheriff, said McGovern acknowledged all his behaviour. “We have heard this before” she said. “The fact is he has not complied and has shown no particular motivation to do so. He says the right things. Indicates he wants to provide for his daughter. He knows that to say to the Social Worker”.

Sheriff Mackie told McGovern: “It is easy to say all the right things, but do you have the motivation to do what is necessary, however hard that might be?”

Having read the Social Work report and what Mr Donald had said, the Sheriff said she was not persuaded that a custodial sentence, however merited, offered the prospect of rehabilitation and his integration into the community.

She placed McGovern on a supervised Community Payback Order for three years and to perform 250 hours of unpaid work within 18 months. Also to participate in the Venture Trust programme and on a Restriction of Liberty Order confining him to his house between 6pm and 6am for six months. He was also disqualified from driving for five years for a number of Road Traffic offences.