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HMA V Donna Brand


Apr 22, 2024

At the High Court in Glasgow, Lord Braid sentenced Donna Brand to life Imprisonment after the offender was convicted of murder. Lord Braid set the punishment part at 17 years.

On sentencing Lord Braid made the following remarks in court:

"Donna Brand, the jury found you responsible for the brutal murder of 14 year old Caroline Glachan on 25 August 1996, by virtue of your having acted in concert with Robert O’Brien, Andrew Kelly and another. 

I accept that you played a lesser role in the murder than Robert O’Brien, who was the principal actor, and for that matter, Andrew Kelly, inasmuch as there was no evidence that you participated in the assault itself.  Nonetheless, by its verdict, the jury must have found that you were party to a plan to inflict murderous violence upon Caroline Glachan; the violence was in the event inflicted principally by Robert O’Brien, but you must bear the consequences of that. 

On the evidence which the jury must have accepted, you had previously threatened to batter Caroline because you were unhappy that she was seeing Robert O’Brien, with whom you were in a relationship, and you went to the towpath knowing that violence was to be inflicted on her.  Although you did not yourself assault Caroline, you must take equal responsibility with the others for having left her lying face down in the water when she was still alive; drowning as we know, being the actual cause of death. 

An aggravating feature is that the murder was committed in the presence of, and was witnessed by, two very young children; and one can only speculate at the extent to which that has blighted their lives.  Further, at the time of the murder, on the basis of the evidence, and what is said in your Criminal Justice Social Work Report about your lifestyle at the time, it is very likely that you had consumed, and were under the influence of, drugs at the time of the offence.

I note that you continue to deny your involvement, and have shown limited empathy for Caroline’s mother. 

As I have already said, when sentencing Robert O’Brien and Andrew Kelly, but will repeat for your benefit, Caroline was a popular teenager, indeed, you say she was a friend of yours. As her mother, Margaret McKeitch, puts it in her victim statement, she was a lover of life.   Due in part to you, Caroline has been deprived of the opportunity of living that life: of developing into an adult, forming relationships, having children, fulfilling the potential which she evidently had, and of continuing to enjoy life, as she clearly did.  Additionally, a daughter has been taken from her loving mother.  In her victim statement, Mrs McKeitch speaks eloquently and movingly of the lasting pain which Caroline’s death has caused, the void which has been left in her life which can never be filled, and the incalculable feelings of deep loss and sadness which will always be there.  She has been deprived of seeing the woman that Caroline would have become and of taking pride in the potential Caroline may have fulfilled.  No sentence that I pass on you can possibly make up for what she has lost.

I have listened to, and take account of, the submissions in mitigation advanced on your behalf by Mr Ross, and I also take into account what is contained in your Criminal Justice Social Work Report.

Turning to disposal, the sentence for the crime of murder is fixed by law.  The only sentence I can pass on you is one of life imprisonment. However, in imposing that sentence, I also have to specify a period which must elapse before you can apply for release on parole. This period is known as the punishment part of your sentence.  You should understand that in fixing the punishment part the court is not in any sense fixing the time when you will be released.  Instead the court is fixing the number of years which must be served by you before you can apply for release.  The punishment part does not take into account the need for public protection.  That is taken into account if and when you apply in due course for your release.  Whether or not you are ever released will therefore be for others to determine in the future; and even if you are released you will be subject to the conditions of a licence for the rest of your life and liable to be recalled to prison if you break any of the conditions.  What the punishment part does do is to reflect the sentencing aims of retribution and deterrence. 

At the time of the offence, you were only 17 years of age and you have no schedule of previous convictions.  In fixing the punishment part in your case, I take into account the brutal nature of the attack, and the fact that very young children were present.  While I accept that you played no active part in the assault itself, the fact remains, as I have pointed out, that you share equal responsibility for having left Caroline lying face down in the river when she was still alive.  To an extent, your culpability is mitigated by your age at the time, although the harm done is not.   To reflect your age at the time, and that your overall responsibility for the murder was less than that of Robert O’Brien and Andrew Kelly, I impose upon you a sentence of life imprisonment, the punishment part in your case being 17 years, to run from 14 December 2023, the date when you were first remanded."


Robert O'Brien and Andrew Kelly were sentenced on 15 January 2024