We sometimes get asked to look at cases that are in the news, and our attention was drawn to the case of Brogan Gillard and her two friends on 27th January 2017.
She was jailed for 31 months whilst her friend Paige Cunningham received 10 months for the ‘ritualised humiliation’ of the unnamed footballer. Sentence for a third friend, Shannon Jones, was adjourned.
We were asked to look at it in light of a particular thing that the Judge said in his sentencing remarks, namely that “he sentenced as if it had been three men on a female“, the question being raised whether that was actually the case.
Ms Gillard (aged 26) was on a night out with her friends when they met the victim. He was taken back her house where he was ‘plied with vodka until he passed out‘.
He was stripped and the subsequent attack was filmed by them (and posted on snapchat). For reasons that aren’t clear, they “vegetables over his naked body, and dancing around while molesting him”, with at least one of them being photographed holding his penis.
Ms Gillard also cut his hair and was videoed “waved a pair of scissors and asked the others, ‘Put in his bum?’ before parting his bottom cheeks“.
All three pleaded guilty to sexual assault (charges of ABH and assault by penetration were not proceeded with).
The victim was found at 5.30am by his mother “wearing a pair of shredded trousers and with clumps of his hair missing. Dazed and confused, he shouted: ‘Get them off me, there’s something up my bum, I want to go home’“.
It is not clear at what stage the guilty pleas were entered, but given the incident occurred in November 2015, it is likely that it was not at the first stage.
The matter is complicated by the fact that the news reports state that Ms Gillard pleaded guilty to an ‘unrelated child cruelty matter’. We don’t know what part of the 31 month sentence was related to that.
But we can start with the Sentencing Guidelines – turn up page 17 – it would appear to be a Category 2A offence on the basis of the touching and the use of alcohol, by a group, that was recorded.
The starting point here is 2 years, with a range of 1-4 years. This is before credit for a plea of guilty. Given the nature of the offending, we would expect the sentence to be towards the top of that bracket – maybe 3½ years.
Depending, therefore, on what part of the 31 months for Ms Gillard was for the Child Cruelty (and the level of credit), this would appear to be in line with what we would expect.
Clearly the sentence for Ms Cunningham was significantly shorter. Again, depending on the level of credit, this is at the bottom of what we would expect, but very much towards the lower end.
However, it seems that Ms Gillard was very much the prime mover in the offence, and she was the one who actually held the victim’s penis.
Coming at it as a theoretical exercise, we would have expected slightly more for Ms Cunningham, but there are clearly plenty of different factors that need to be taken into account and we would imagine that there are things that the Judge knew about her that we did not.
So, did they get special treatment for being women? The Judge specifically stated not, and on the face of it that would appear to be correct.