“You have been convicted of the most appalling of crimes against your own sons. The abuse persisted for years. The harm you have caused is, to my mind, simply incalculable!”
These were the words Sheriff Morag Shankland had for 63-year-old former Cumbernauld woman Anne Brown who was sentenced to a five-year custodial sentence at Airdrie Sheriff Court for what was described as “harrowing and sustained physical abuse” against each of her own three sons.
Brown, who now resides in Glasgow, did not shy away from making eye contact with her estranged family in the public gallery as she was led away to the cells; her face maintaining a cold and stony expression which betrayed no emotion.
At the sentencing hearing the court had heard that she has no contact with the family. According to her social work report she continues to deny any criminality towards her sons and has “no empathy for their suffering”.
Ms Brown’s solicitor told the court that her client denies this. Rather, the lawyer said, Ms Brown maintains she continues to care for her children’s wellbeing and that the allegations they brought against her were simply the result of her sons being ‘manipulated’ by her former husband.
These allegations made difficult reading: in her own words Sheriff Shankland felt that the offences were so “incredibly serious” that she was “only just persuaded” that she even had the authority to deal with the matter at Sheriff Court level.
The Sheriff had been tempted out of elevating the case to the High Court by Ms Brown’s solicitor’s mitigation that her client was a ‘low risk’ offender according to social workers.
The lawyer repeatedly told the Sheriff that Ms Brown “is a 63-year-old woman, an articulate woman who has worked until relatively recently and who has no record of previous offending”.
Previous record or no, Ms Brown has now been found guilty for carrying out prolonged abuse against her sons from May 1994 to October 2010 at addresses throughout Cumbernauld and Glasgow.
Each of the three sons gave relatively similar details of the continuous attacks they faced growing up.
Her oldest son, Michael Keane (30), told the court how his mother had begun attacking him when he was aged only six and that it had lasted until he was 17.
The jury heard from him that at addresses on Logan Drive and Callandar Road his mother repeatedly injured him by striking him on the head and body with her hands and seizing and pulling him by the hair.
She also regularly struck him on the body, buttocks and genitals with a belt, he told the court.
Next to give evidence was her youngest son, 20-year-old Blair Keane, who told jurors that he had been abused from ages 6-9.
Jurors heard from him how he had also been repeatedly struck on the head and body at addresses in Moodiesburn, Bailieston, Carntyne and at Arran Drive in Cumbernauld.
This son further detailed how his mother often attacked him with shoes, clothes hangers and toys and even once held him under the water as he was bathing. Other times, he told the court, his mother would restrict his breathing by pushing a pillow against his face or by gripping him around the neck.
Last to give evidence was the middle son who told the court that he had suffered prolonged abuse for 12 years starting from when he was only two-years-old.
Conner Keane, now 22, claimed he too had regularly been assaulted by his mother at each of the above addresses.
Conner, the jury heard, was often struck by his mother on the head and body and he could also recollect being pushed by her regularly too.
He gave similar evidence about being held under his own bath water and being struck by clothes hangers too but the jurors in the trial felt they did not have enough evidence to convict Ms Brown of these specific details.
What the jurors did side with the sons over the mother who told the jury that the complainers were liars in her own evidence.
This particularly irked the Sheriff who scalded the woman “your sons had to come to court to give evidence of harrowing abuse before being subjected to your attempts to brand them as liars”.
It did not work. She was found guilty of all three charges and sentenced to a five-year custodial sentence for each; which she will serve concurrently.