Everyday Victim Blaming

challenging institutional disbelief around domestic & sexual violence and abuse

PTSD, Domestic Violence, and Personal Responsibility

Cameron Hayhurst "pled guilty to assaulting his wife to the danger of (Caroline McGhee) life as he appeared at the High Court in Glasgow". Lord Turnbull deferred sentencing for a year so that Hayhurst, who suffers from PTSD following a tour of duty in Afghanistan, so that Hayhurst can undergo "intensive treatment" and "prove he can stay out of trouble".

We have a number of concerns about this case and how it was reported. PTSD is not uncommon in soldiers returning from war zones. We also know that self-harm or the harming of others is not unusual, yet, support for soldiers returning remains low (and effectively non-existent for those leaving the army). Lord Turnbull's decision to not give Hayhurst a custodial sentence which would have resulted in him being dismissed by the army could be seen as a positive if it means that Hayhurst will have access to better care for his PTSD.

Yet, there is an issue which does not appear in media coverage. Strangulation, to the point  of near-death, is a red flag for fatal male violence of current or former partners. When Hayhurst pled guilty to the assault, after originally being charged with attempted murder, he also pled not guilty to five other assaults on McGhee and not guilty to threatening to kill her and dispose of the body. It is not clear if these 5 incidents were prior assaults or charges related to the strangulation. If they are indeed 5 prior assaults, then there is a clear pattern of domestic violence; particularly if these pre-dated the diagnosis of PTSD. In which case, a non-custodial sentence is inappropriate. PTSD accompanied by multiple acts of violence should result in a custodial sentence: not necessarily in a prison, but a man who has perpetrated multiple assaults is not a safe man.

What is deeply disturbing about this case is the judge's comments.  Lord Turnbull refers to Hayhurst as a "brave soldier who had served his country well", but one who acted in a "hurtful" manner to his wife. Attempting to strangle your wife, regardless of wether or not you have PTSD,  is not "acting in a hurtful manner". Referring to it as such is a minimising tactic which demonstrates a lack of awareness of both PTSD and domestic violence. Lord Turnbull also said: "The fact he acted while suffering from PTSD does not make the matter less upsetting for his victim, but goes some way to explain that a man she cared for could have acted in such a manner."

I have to wonder if the judge would have made similar statements about a woman with PTSD who committed a near-fatal act of violence. I rather suspect he wouldn't.

Having PTSD as a result of combat is not an excuse when committing violence. We need to give returning soldiers better and faster access to mental health services but we also need to recognise the issue of personal responsibility. Hayhurst attempted to kill his wife  Had she not escaped, would he have killed her? This is a question we can't answer but Hayhurst's bravery as a soldier is irrelevant when investigating his responsibility for criminal assault against his partner.

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5 thoughts on “PTSD, Domestic Violence, and Personal Responsibility

  • Hecuba says:

    Men will use every means to justify/excuse/minimalise their accountability in respect of their choice to subject women to male violence.

    Furthermore men know their Male Supremacist legal system fully supports and upholds mens’ excuses/denials concerning their accountability in respect of their choice and agency to subject women to male violence in any shape or form.

    Just because male perpetrator Cameron Hayhurst is supposedly suffering from PTSD does not exonerate him from his choice and agency to subject his female partner, Caroline McGhee to violence, including almost murdering her.

    Not all men who experience PTDS also engage in subjecting women to male violence. I am not interested in whether or not Hayhurst ‘served his country’ because this is irrelevant and furthermore no one forced Hayhurst to join the military.

    To repeat Hayhurst made the choice to subject Caroline McGhee to serious male violence but as usual her suffering is ignored because the focus is as always ‘on men and their interests/claims.’

    • Caroline McGhee says:

      Hi there

      Thank you for your comment. I am Caroline McGhee I was with Cameron for over 6 years and married for 2. We have a son together.

      My case from the very start was handled wrong. After the police did an amazing job the Crown Office let me down with little or misinformation. I was manipulated into taking a plea without all the correct facts that had I known I would not have accepted.
      They did not challenge a single incorrect fact at the proof hearing. They said he did 2 tours when in fact he only did one. He had previous convictions from before he went on tour and one of them involved a knife which was never brought up.
      They said he had a great army record and this attack was out of character when he had a 2 year promotion ban and several warnings for his bad attitude towards senior officers.
      The truth is I suffered years of domestic violence some before he joined the army.
      Luckily that night I was fighting to stay alive for my son. My little boy is the only good thing from all the horror and I am thankful to be alive to tell the tale. That night was my jolt to reality and really opened my eyes to what had been happening.
      I have since written complaints about the prosecution and judge, sent this complaint to my local MSP who will put this forward to the Lord Advocate.
      I may not be able to change my outcome but maybe if I make enough noise I can make the Crown Office notice their failings and change.
      The support I have received has been amazing and it is true that if you dont leave a violent relationship you will leave in a body bag.
      Nothing can excuse this type of behaviour and I think its about time the courts stop making excuses.
      Keep on fighting for victims I will too https://www.facebook.com/ScotsUnjustSystem?fref=ts

      Thank you so much xxx

      • Hello,

        Thank you so much for taking the time to comment on this article. I am so very sorry that the CPS failed you.

        Louise x

        • Caroline McGhee says:

          Thank you for bringing it up to attention.

          I am not sitting down lightly on this. I have put in my formal complaints about my prosecution and the judge. My local MSP has taken my case to the Lord Advocate and I am hoping that the Crown Office will appeal those 5 charges that were found not guilty since I had no understanding of this.
          I am making sure I will be the Crown Office biggest headache.

          The most important thing I want is to remove my ex’s parental rights. He never cared about my son. He even abused me while I was pregnant. My son witnessed the violence against me and wouldnt let me out of his site for 6 months when we moved.

          The morning after my ex tried to kill me my son was still ill at the time. He came over to me and tried to get me to drink his medicine because he knows it makes you feel better.

          As long as I can stop my ex from hurting my son further. My son is my world and I will protect him to the end.

          My ex and his family are toxic. His mum Annie is a widwife and she knew about the abuse. 3 times I wanted to leave and she talked me into staying saying we can get him help. Even though she knew he had punched my face so much I looked like I did 12 rounds with Tyson and that he had dragged me by the hair while I was pregnant.

          So hopefully I can save my son from these horrible people who pretend they are better than everyone else.

          But again thank you all for talking about this. Talking is start of things to change.

          I have a facebook page about this unjust system so the more people who tell their stories (no names will be mentioned) the better.


          Thank you all for your suport. xxxxxxx

  • Hazel Mcdade says:

    This case brings the shocking injustice in our legal system! I think the way the judge portrayed him as a war hero is pathetic. He is a man who has assaulted a women and should have served his time. He should have been discharged from the army. This man is no hero and should in no way be portrayed as one only a wife and women beater! You should be ashamed of yourself!!! Karma!!!