A Scottish rugby star who admitted pushing, hurling abuse at, and tracking his girlfriend has been ordered to do 120 hours of unpaid work.
Rufus McLean, 22, was given the community payback order at Edinburgh Sheriff Court on Thursday after he admitted abusing the woman over a period of almost two years.
He was also made subject to a non-harassment order to not contact his former partner for ten years.
Sheriff Matthew Auchincloss said McLean’s behaviour was “aggressive” and “controlling”.
Addressing McLean, who was dressed in a blazer and black trousers in the dock, he said: “You may not have intended to cause harm, however due to the extended period of time… you should have known there was a risk of harm from your behaviour.
“This behaviour has caused significant harm to your former partner.
“The threshold for a custodial sentence has been passed.”
However the sheriff said there was an appropriate alternative to custody.
The victim’s family said her life had “stood still” for the last four years, adding the abuse had been “totally unacceptable”.
The court heard the usual amount of hours of unpaid work given in a community payback order following a trial is 200 hours.
But because McLean is considered a young person, the hours are reduced to 150.
Sheriff Auchincloss reduced that further to 120 hours, to be completed over nine months, given McLean’s age and early guilty plea.
He added: “As a young person you have greater capacity to change… I recognise the dynamics of your relationship may have been difficult. You have shown remorse and shame from your behaviour.”
McLean, of Gordon in Berwickshire, who earned three caps in his career, admitted the domestic abuse of the woman between April 2019 and January 2021.
The charge of domestic abuse against him said he repeatedly shouted, swore and acted aggressively towards her.
It also said he told her what clothes she could and could not wear, and requested passwords for her social media accounts.
At an earlier hearing, McLean admitted controlling his partner’s movements and insisting she enabled location tracking services on her phone.
He also admitted pushing her to her injury, repeatedly calling her derogatory and offensive names, sending abusive messages, and telling her who she could and could not meet.
In a statement issued following the sentencing, the victim’s family said: “We are relieved that this four-year ordeal has come to a conclusion and would like to thank Police Scotland and the procurator fiscal’s office for their support and professionalism.
“Throughout this process we have maintained a dignified silence but have had to endure more pain and suffering than any family should.
“To be confronted by the knowledge that our daughter … has suffered serious abuse – under Section 1 of the Domestic Abuse Act – over such a prolonged period of time at the hands of the defendant is heartbreaking.
“[Her] life has stood still, and so has that of our family. Unbelievably, [she] has had to endure continued verbal abuse from members of the rugby community.
“She is the victim, yet it seems that there still remain some young players who do not understand that when a defendant pleads guilty, it is an admission of wrongdoing.
“In the case of Rufus McLean, it means serious abuse of a woman, verbally or otherwise, is totally unacceptable and deserves an appropriate response.”
McLean’s solicitor, Iain Smith, previously said in court his client was willing to be educated and that the consequences of his offending had already been significant.
He said McLean has lost his job and income, and his dreams of playing for his country have come to an end.
Mr Smith said there is no doubt McLean would be in the current Scotland squad had it not been for his conviction, and that the offences largely took place when he was still a teenager.
Sheriff Auchincloss was also told McLean has expressed regret for his actions.
After McLean admitted the offences, his club Glasgow Warriors terminated his contract with immediate effect.
Following an internal disciplinary hearing in conjunction with Scottish Rugby, the club said it had sacked the player on grounds of “gross misconduct” and “breach of contract”.
At the time, Warriors managing director Al Kellock said: “Rufus admitted domestic abuse and his actions cannot be condoned, which has resulted in his employment with Glasgow Warriors ending.
“We have taken this matter extremely seriously. Sadly, with any crime there is a victim and as a club we want to acknowledge the impact on the young woman involved.
“We are committed to ensuring our players continue to be positive role models and recognise the privileged positions they hold.”
In a statement, the victim’s family said Scottish Rugby still had questions to answer over McLean’s continued presence in Glasgow Warriors promotional material even after pleading guilty in February.
They added: “Why was it that after Rufus McLean pleaded guilty to domestic abuse (18 months after he was charged), eight days later remaining on Glasgow Warriors publicity material for the second leg of the 1872 Cup match against Edinburgh?
“It was only after prolonged media attention that they were forced to respond to the seriousness of the situation. We hope that a more stringent procedure is now in place so no other family or young woman has to suffer in this way.”
A Scottish Rugby spokesman said: “Scottish Rugby in no way condones abuse of any kind, in whatever form that takes. We have been proactively working in recent years with Police Scotland and other partners to ensure our own people and players are aware of the negative impact abusive behaviour can have on individuals and their families.”
“We are sad to hear of the distress the victim and her family have suffered and we hope that today’s sentencing allows all parties to move forward from what have been clearly difficult and upsetting circumstances.”
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