A man branded his wife with an iron for not pressing his shirt. He slashed her feet with a knife while she slept, because she had not made his sandwiches. When she “complained”, as the Daily Mail puts it, he beat her with his fists. He was convicted of this. The punishment?
A £2,000 fine. No jail time. No suspended sentence. Not even any community service for 25 year old “Cambridge graduate” Colin Read. Because of the “special circumstances” – his busy, £90,000 a year job as a management consultant meant he wouldn’t have time. And because the judge said “it was the circumstances of the marriage that had provoked Read and that now those circumstances had gone, sending him to prison would ‘help no one'”.
The circumstances of the marriage? What? How could any circumstances justify this:
Eight days later, even worse was to follow. Read complained that a shirt printed with palm trees that he needed for a corporate “beach party” function was apparently unironed.
He lashed out again, branding his wife twice on the back with the iron. He pressed so hard that the iron’s steam holes were burnt into her flesh.
Too scared to even call a doctor, Mrs Read simply stood under a cold shower for half an hour and then attended lectures as normal.
Police were called only after a friend alerted officers. Read was arrested within days.
Now This is London reports that a senior consultant on a £100,000 salary has been fined a measly £500 after he “threw his wife to the floor and punched her at least 24 times as she lay at his feet”. The argument was about a car, and was the culmination of years of domestic violence.
Judith Stephenson from Women’s Aid said:
“These cases are shocking and demonstrate how a man who causes his partner extreme emotional and physical harm can still go almost unpunished.
“It is vital that the courts give out the message that domestic violence is not acceptable.”
It’s shocking that anyone could believe that a fine is an appropriate response to cases as violent and extreme as this. Both perpetrators were middle class professionals, and class clearly played a part in the decision to let them off with such leniant sentences. But I can’t help but wonder whether they indicate a lingering assumption among judges that domestic violence isn’t as bad as other types of violence. If a stranger had slashed another stranger with a knife, would they receive a fine or a jail sentence? Even the police are appalled, with one source telling the newspaper: “The sentence does not send a warning to abusive partners. Being of otherwise good character is no excuse for domestic abuse.”
Photo by Lawl, shared under a Creative Commons license