Scottish Premiership - St Mirren offer help to McGowan

St Mirren bosses have promised to help Paul McGowan return to the straight and narrow after the midfielder narrowly escaped jail following an alcohol-fuelled attack on two police officers.

The 26-year-old was sentenced to 130 hours of unpaid work and handed a one-year supervision order on Wednesday after admitting the double assault charge last month.

However, his club bosses have vowed to support him, despite a sheriff informing him his punishment was a "direct alternative" to jail.

In a statement issued on the club's website, a St Mirren spokesman said: "Today's sentencing brings this deeply regrettable matter to a close.

"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."

Buddies playmaker McGowan admitted kicking police constable Edward Gilmartin and repeatedly kicking police constable Tony Fitzpatrick in Airdrie and at Coatbridge Police Station on August 11.

But the former Celtic youngster, who has a previous conviction for police assault, was spared a prison sentence when Sheriff Frank Pieri instead decided to hand him a Community Payback Order.

Sheriff Pieri told him: "People who act in this way towards police officers can expect a prison sentence, especially with someone like your record.

"However, I am prepared to deal with you in this way as a direct alternative to custody."

After the sentencing hearing, McGowan said: "I'm not allowed to say anything but I would have taken that if you'd have asked me beforehand."

Depute fiscal Stephen McLean told the court that McGowan - a father of one - had been on a night out in his home town of Airdrie with his father when the incident took place.

Police were called to Wheatholm Street after receiving a tip-off about an incident involving the player.

As soon as the officers arrived, McGowan darted off towards Reid Street before slipping, allowing the police to catch up and detain him.

While being handcuffed the footballer kicked out at PC Gilmartin, striking him on the knee. He was then held face down but kicked out again, catching PC Fitzpatrick on the inner thigh and groin area, causing him "severe pain".

Because of his aggressive manner, the officers were forced to restrain his feet using fast-straps before he was taken to Coatbridge police station. However, he was so drunk, officers decided not to caution or charge him at that point.

McGowan's solicitor Mark Lutton told Sheriff Pieri that the incident was an "impulsive reaction by a young man that was drunk".

He said the handcuffs caused McGowan discomfort following a shoulder injury which required surgery and kept him out of football for three months at the tail-end of 2012.

The solicitor 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."

McGowan's lawyer added that the player's relationship with his father is usually good but said his parents were "deeply disappointed" by their son's behaviour.

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.

The Bellshill-born midfielder signed permanently for St Mirren in the summer of 2011 after spending the previous season with the Paisley club on loan.

McGowan, who has also had loan stints with Morton and Hamilton, has made 135 appearances for Saints and was named man of the match when the Buddies lifted the Scottish League Cup back in March with a 3-2 win over Hearts.