Female domestic abuser has sentence increased to 12 years

PAY-Gemma-Hollings-main

A Lancashire woman who carried out a series of assaults on her partner – hitting him with a hammer, a curtain pole and a bottle – has had her “unduly lenient” jail sentence increased by four years.

Three judges at the Court of Appeal in London upped the eight years originally imposed on Gemma Hollings, 37, of Darwen, to 12 years.

Hollings, who was jailed after being found guilty of four offences committed against her 30-year-old partner over a period of around 24 hours at the home they shared, watched proceedings via video link from prison.

Her original term, handed down at Preston Crown Court last October, was quashed by Lord Justice Fulford, Mr Justice Walker and Mr Justice Flaux after they heard argument on behalf of Solicitor General Robert Buckland that eight years did not adequately reflect the gravity of her crimes.

It was also submitted to the appeal judges that a sentence needed to be imposed which would deter others from carrying out similar offences – some of which carried the risk of causing permanent disability or death.

Lord Justice Fulford, announcing the decision of the court to increase the sentence, said her victim suffered “extensive” injuries.

She grabbed and squeezed his testicles, causing him “intense” pain. In one attack Hollings struck her partner of three months with a hammer. In another the weapon was a hollow curtain pole. She also hit him on the top of the head with an empty ouzo bottle.

When the bottle smashed she stabbed him in the neck with jagged glass, exposing his jugular vein.

Hollings was told by the sentencing judge last year that it was a “miracle” she was not being tried for murder.

The injuries she inflicted included a displaced fracture of the left cheekbone, which required the insertion of a metal plate, and a fracture of the left eye socket.

The couple, both recovering drug addicts, had planned to marry. The assaults were carried out after Hollings’ partner failed to obtain money she had asked him to get from his relatives.

Hollings was convicted of two offences of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, one offence of causing grievous bodily harm with intent and one of wounding with intent.

Lord Justice Fulford said that in the court’s judgment, eight years was unduly lenient and to a “marked extent”.

Hollings, who was said to have suffered from depressive and anxiety disorders, had an “unfortunate” history, and drug-related problems, but even giving “full weight” to her mitigation there was “no escaping the grave nature of this sequence of assaults”.

The judge said the “least appropriate overall sentence” was 12 years.

In a statement after the hearing, the Solicitor General said: “The victim in this case was lucky to escape with his life.

“I brought this case to the Court of Appeal as unduly lenient as the attacks with the hammer and broken bottle carried the risk of causing permanent disability or death.

“Hollings committed a series of unprovoked assaults on the victim within a 24 hour period involving the repeated use of a weapon to target a vulnerable part of the body.

“Hollings’ assault with the bottle was especially premeditated just hours after the hammer attack. The use of a sharp and pointed weapon to target the throat indicated a higher level crime. The victim suffered multiple serious injuries and significant psychological harm.”

He said the attacks “amounted to a horrendous and potentially fatal case of domestic abuse”, adding: “I am pleased the court recognised this by increasing the sentence to 12 years.”

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE RISES AMID AUSTERITY

IT HAPPENS TO EVERYONE

Abusive offenders’ violent behaviour is escalating in the wake of budget cuts and a shortage of courses, probation staff have warned.

The probation union Napo said the availability of domestic violence courses was under threat from 20% budget cuts, leading to them only being available for the most high-risk offenders.

A third of probation teams polled said there was evidence of an “escalation of violent behaviour” when offenders were denied a scheme after being assessed as medium or low risk.

Shorter unaccredited courses were also being used instead, Napo said.

The union’s survey of staff in 82 probation teams across England and Wales in 2011/12 showed delays of between two and 12 months in more than 70% of the teams before offenders could start programmes.

Almost a third of the teams were also rationing schemes to only those offenders who pose a very high risk, the figures showed.

And more than half reported using shorter, alternative courses, most of which were unaccredited.

Harry Fletcher, Napo’s assistant general secretary, warned domestic violence was “set to reach even higher unacceptable levels” if current trends continue.

“It is of extreme concern that because of costs and cuts, delays of six months and more are being experienced before men can commence participation and motivation is lost,” he said.

The courses, which cost less than £6,300 compared with a £45,000 prison place, can help reduce reoffending by up to a third, Napo said.

Mr Fletcher went on: “It is worrying that some probation areas are introducing shorter, cheaper, alternatives, with no evidence that they work.

“The policy of restricting access to courses to men who are deemed high risk is also problematic as there is ample evidence that failure to intervene early leads to escalation and further violence.”

He said that while the Government was committed to tackling violence against women, “the reality on the ground is that the political commitment does not translate into fact”.

But a Ministry of Justice (MoJ) spokeswoman said: “Offenders who present the greatest risk of harm will always be prioritised.

“We do not expect that offenders sentenced to attend domestic violence programmes will start them immediately because there is preparatory work that needs to be done by the offender with the offender manager.

“Public safety is a key priority for Noms (the National Offender Management Service).”

She went on: “Probation areas and prisons are delivering a significant number of domestic violence programmes.

“In addition, Noms is currently piloting a new domestic abuse programme, rolling out nationally this year.”

The spokeswoman added: “Not all domestic abuse offenders will be suitable for, or benefit from, the accredited domestic abuse programmes.

“Domestic abuse offenders have diverse needs, some of which can be met by other interventions.”

The MoJ added that probation trusts were “responsible for handling their own budget, distributing resources effectively and fulfilling a range of responsibilities in their area”.

 

FATHER CALLS FOR “CLARE’S LAW” – BUT IS IT FAIR?


The father of a murder victim has handed in a petition at Number 10 demanding a change in the law to help protect women from domestic abuse – but Converse, the national prisoners newspaper commented that it was too one-sided.
Michael Brown, from Batley, West Yorkshire travelled to Downing Street as part of a campaign to introduce “Clare’s Law” so women can find out if boyfriends or husbands have a history of domestic violence.
Mr Brown’s daughter, Clare Wood, was strangled and set on fire by her ex-boyfriend, George Appleton, at her home in Salford in February 2009.
Appleton, dubbed the “Facebook Fugitive” then went on the run before hanging himself.
Miss Wood, 36, a mother-of-one, had met Appleton on Facebook, unaware of his horrific history of violence against women, including repeated harassment, threats and the kidnapping at knifepoint of one of his ex-girlfriends.
At the inquest into Miss Wood’s death last year, Coroner Jennifer Leeming said women in abusive relationships should have the right to know about the violent past of the men they were with.
Mark Leech editor of Converse said: “Its all very well protecting women, and I accept fully they need it, but this law would prevent males from knowing anything about females previously guilty of violence – and like it or not, it does happen.
“Only last June Sally Challen murdered her husband with a hammer and was jailed for 22 years – are we suggesting a future boyfriend of hers should not be told about this incident?
“The suggested law needs to be amended so that either partner can find out about a violence past of the other person in the relationship.”
The so-called “Clare’s Law” frollows in the footsteps of “Sarah’s Law”, named after Sarah Payne who was murdered by paedophile Roy Whiting in 2000, now gives parents the right to know of any child sex convictions of men with access to their children.
Mr Brown, backed by MP for Salford Hazel Blears and Manchester radio station Key 103, is asking the Government to introduce Clare’s Law to help women.
Mr Brown, a former prison officer originally from Aberdeen, handed over the petition today carrying around 1,000 signatures calling for a change in the law.
He said: “I have been campaigning for the last six months and have been pleasantly surprised at the public reaction to the proposed change in the law.
“The interest world-wide is also unbelievable, from America to Australia, to an article in a newspaper in Pravda.
“The world is watching for a lead from the UK’s Government, the cradle of democracy, and I pray that they make the right decision.”
Home Secretary Theresa May last year agreed to open a ‘Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme’ to public consultation and is now considering the response.
A verdict of unlawful killing by strangulation was recorded as the cause of Ms Wood’s death and Ms Leeming said she would report back to the Government recommending that people at risk of harm should be given information about their partners’ past so they can make an “informed choice”.
Ms Wood had complained to police of a catalogue of harassment from Wood before her murder.
Police watchdogs at the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) later ruled Ms Wood had been badly let down by Greater Manchester Police who have now instigated a raft of changes to policy and procedures in the handling of domestic abuse cases.