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HMA v Paul McNaughton & Paul Black


Jun 17, 2024

At the High Court in Glasgow today, Lord Scott sentenced Paul McNaughton to life imprisonment for the murder of Peter Coshan. McNaughton must serve a minimum period of 22 years before he can be considered for parole. Paul Black was sentenced to 5 and a half years in prison for attempting to pervert the course of justice.

On sentencing, Lord Scott said:

“Paul McNaughton, at a preliminary hearing on 2 August 2023, you pled guilty to a charge of murdering Peter Coshan on 11 or 12 August 2022. The murder involved inflicting an injury or injuries on Peter Coshan which caused him to bleed and struggling with him, having previously indicated malice and ill-will towards him.

You were on bail at the time from Edinburgh Sheriff Court, having been granted bail only on 9 June 2022.

In the evidence, I heard a little about Peter Coshan and I now have a Victim Impact Statement from his niece, Sarah Hough.  He was clearly a much loved brother, uncle and friend. He was a respected colleague whose friendship and company continued to feature for many years in the lives of those he had worked with or taught, some of whom gave evidence and attended court thereafter in silent, dignified tribute to him. Peter Coshan appears to have been a gentle and cultured soul who continued to enjoy life despite a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease 5 years earlier. You exploited his increasing vulnerability over a period of time before you decided that Peter Coshan must die. You then started planning to murder him entirely for your own benefit.

On the evidence, Peter Coshan was murdered almost immediately after he was dropped off by taxi at your flat late in the evening of 11 August 2022 after you had lured him there in your carefully planned pretence and deception.

Having exploited Peter Coshan in life and obtained significant financial benefit from him, you continued to do so in death. Indeed, there was not a moment’s pause before you carried out the next part of your plan.

In a cold, calm and chilling manner, you immediately went to Peter Coshan’s home where you took bank cards to help yourself to even more of his money. Immediately after that, stopping only to buy some takeaway food, you busied yourself on a spending spree for several days which involved siphoning off more of his money at every opportunity, mostly to spend on yourself, including planning a foreign holiday.

Along with your co-accused Paul Black, you also set about covering up your crime, seeking to avoid the consequences of your awful act. I will come back to that when I deal with Paul Black.

Before passing sentence, I decided to obtain a Criminal Justice Social Work Report.  This has provided me with information about your background as well as your account of what happened that night.

As you know, the jury rejected your account of Paul Black, a 65 year old man with various health issues and disabilities, being responsible for executing your plan by carrying out the physical act itself. You maintain that position but it does you no good. I proceed on the basis, as I must, that you are the person with sole criminal responsibility for Peter Coshan’s murder.

Mr Scullion has referred to the traumatic experiences that may have contributed to addiction and mental health issues. That you were or may have been under the influence of drink or drugs at points during the planning or execution of your plan does not diminish your responsibility in any way at all.

I note what is said about adverse childhood experiences but, given your age – you are now 29 - and the circumstances of the present crimes, I cannot give them much weight.

In his plea in mitigation, Mr Scullion emphasised your record of employment, your lack of any criminal record of significance, the absence of previous violence and, in particular, your plea of guilty.

You have several previous convictions although none for violence. One of these, for wilful fire-raising, was on indictment in 2016 although I note that you have not previously been sentenced to imprisonment. 

I recognise that what you did appears to have been out of character for you. On the other hand, it involved pre-meditation and careful planning with an elaborate set-up involving pretence to lure Mr Coshan to his death - and, after the murder, it involved further draining of his bank accounts in confirmation of your main motive for the murder.

I will return to the sentence in your case after I have addressed your co-accused although some of what I say to him affects you too as it concerns charge 16 to which you also pled guilty.

Paul Black, concealing Paul McNaughton’s crime is where you came in.

After Peter Coshan was murdered, he was shown no respect and afforded no dignity by you or Paul McNaughton.  He suffered the further affront in death of having his body hidden and then crammed into a suitcase before being taken to a lay-by in Northumberland where you intended to bury him to avoid his remains ever being found.

A consequence of what you both did to conceal Peter Coshan’s murder is that his family and friends did not know, and may never know, the truth of what actually happened in their loved one’s final moments. Due to what you both did, the cause of Peter Coshan’s death could not be ascertained. Your actions after his murder exacerbated the trauma suffered by Peter Coshan’s family and friends. The circumstances of his murder and court proceedings against both of you have added further to their suffering due to aspects of Peter Coshan’s private life being so publicly exposed.

Sarah Hough’s Victim Impact Statement confirms the devastating impact on his family and their continuing trauma.  She said:

“The ongoing trauma we have experienced through finding out he was violently killed alongside not being able to locate his remains for weeks and not being able to say goodbye or put him to rest in a timely manner has shaken my family to the very core…

My Uncle devoted his life to helping people and educating children and he lived a very private life. On top of his life being taken, his privacy has also been taken by this case revealing details he held private even from his family.”

Nothing said or done here today, and no sentence I impose will be enough to help Peter Coshan’s family and friends with their tragic loss or address the various ways in which what you both did will continue to affect them.

Paul Black, you acted with Paul McNaughton in seeking to cover up Peter Coshan’s murder although the jury was not persuaded that you acted with him in the murder itself. I acknowledge that the charge of murder has been hanging over you for almost 2 years. You have a very limited record of previous offending none of which is for violence. You have never been sentenced to imprisonment. You are 65 years old with various health issues. However, your crime is also serious.

I note the terms of your CJSWR. It explains some of your background and how you came to find yourself in the dock of the High Court on a murder charge at the age of 65.

In his plea in mitigation, Mr Lenehan emphasised that you have a very limited criminal record. You have various physical and mental health issues. You were acquitted of the charge of murder. You became involved in this because of Mr McNaughton with whom, it seems, you were infatuated and for whom you were willing to do almost anything.

Mr Black, I will sentence you first.

I have considered the terms of the jury’s verdict, the CJSWR and Mr Lenehan’s careful plea in mitigation.

I have concluded that no sentence is appropriate other than imprisonment. That is because of the very serious nature of the charge. It is necessary to punish you and to seek to deter you and others from such conduct.

In the circumstances, I sentence you to a period of 5 and a half years imprisonment. That will date from 18 August 2022.

Mr McNaughton, I have considered all that is said in the Criminal Justice Social Work Report and all that has been carefully said today on your behalf by Mr Scullion.  The main consideration in sentencing is the pre-meditated and planned nature of this murder, together with the fact that it was done solely for your benefit, financial or otherwise and the steps you took after the murder to conceal what you had done. In mitigation, the main considerations are your plea of guilty and the fact that this was out of character.

In the circumstances and as required by law, I sentence you to life imprisonment.  I require also to impose a punishment part and therefore to specify a period of time which must be served before you can be considered for parole.

I must also impose a sentence on charge 16. On that charge, I sentence you to 6 years imprisonment to be served concurrently with the life sentence.  In your case, charge 16 is all the more serious because it was your own crime that was being covered up.

Had you been convicted after trial of murder, taking into account all relevant matters, I would have imposed a punishment part of 24 years. That period takes into account the very serious nature of charge 16. I make clear that I am not increasing the punishment part by 6 years. The punishment part on charge 13 is greater by 3 years than it would have been if you had only been facing the charge of murder.

You pled guilty at the preliminary hearing.  I require to consider the utilitarian value of your plea, albeit it did not avoid a trial. Nonetheless I will reduce the punishment part of 24 years by 2 years, giving a final punishment part of 22 years.

The punishment part will run from 18 August 2022.  You should understand that this is not a sentence of 22 years’ imprisonment – 22 years is the minimum period of time you will have to serve before you can be considered for parole.  Whether, and if so, when, you are released will be a matter for the Parole Board to determine after that 22 year period and will be decided on the basis of the risk you are assessed to pose at that time.”

 17 June 2024