The judge’s focus on the perpetrator’s future relationship prospects sets a dangerous precedent.
A UK judge has come under fire for telling a man who admitted to controlling his former fiancée to forget her as there are “lots more fishes in the sea”.
Alexander Heavens, 24, from Greater Manchester, admitted to engaging in coercive and controlling behaviour in an intimate relationship, the Telegraph reported.
Coercive and controlling behaviour was made a criminal offence under the Serious Crime Act 2015. It encompasses a range of behaviour, and is defined by Women’s Aid as “an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten a victim”.
Heavens, reported the Telegraph, bent his ex-fiancée Stacy Booth’s fingers back, punched her in the face, used her thumb to unlock her phone while she was sleeping so he could see if she was dating other men, and bit her arm. He also interrogated her during the night about the people she’d been speaking to, meaning she was sleep-deprived and struggled to cope at work.
For this, Heavens was given a 12-month community order – which is a list of requirements a criminal must abide by instead of going to prison – along with a restraining order that prevents him contacting Booth.
Heavens blamed his actions on cocaine use and excessive drinking, leading the judge to tell him that “everyone deserves a second chance”.
But Judge Rudland didn’t stop there, telling Heavens that he had proved he could change and had shown the court he could “make something of himself”.
And, in an affront to victims of domestic abuse everywhere, the judge concluded: “Put this behind you, put her behind you, there are lots more fishes in the sea and watch how you go.”
Yes, that’s right, the judge chose to spend his time commenting on the perpetrator’s future relationship prospects instead of focusing on the effects Heavens’ actions had on his ex.
The comments have been met with dismay by domestic abuse charities, who have condemned the judge for not taking the offence seriously.
In a tweet, Women’s Aid said: “The judge’s sentencing remarks show a serious lack of understanding about the nature of coercive control. We know from our work with survivors that abusers often go on to control and abuse their next partner. Coercive control must be taken seriously.”
Refuged tweeted: “Coercive and controlling behaviour is a crime, and these outdated remarks reinforce dangerous stereotypes. The abuser’s relationship prospects are not the key issue here – survivor safety is.”
This is not the first time a judge has made ill-advised, to say the least, comments in court. Earlier this year a British judge was fiercely criticised for saying that men have a “fundamental human right” to have sex with their wives.
These comments by judges are not only ignorant, they also set a dangerous precedent, possibly discouraging women who are the victims of domestic abuse from coming forward in the future.
Since Judge Rudland failed to do so, it’s only right that we give Booth the last word. Speaking after the hearing, she said: “”The fact he’s been given a second chance is like they’ve let him get away with it. They’ve not made an example of him.”