CARLISLE’S most senior judge has demanded to know why police repeatedly released a controlling husband who had flouted a bail condition to stay away from his victim 13 times.

Judge Peter Davies highlighted the issue as he passed sentence on 38-year-old Neil Pantin, who admitted stalking his estranged wife Heather and subjecting her to coercive and controlling behaviour, leaving her so traumatised she tried to kill herself.

The judge jailed the defendant for 27 months.

Before he passed sentence, Mrs Pantin - a police community support officer - read aloud her poignant victim impact statement, describing the profound impact of her husband’s obsessive behaviour as he accused her of being interested in other men and sought to control her life.

She was left so crushed that in July last year she made a serious attempt on her own life, the court heard.

Prosecutor Gerard Rogerson outlined how in May of last year Pantin accepted a police caution for harassment, which meant that he accepted he had committed the offence. Yet he continued harassing even after her suicide attempt, said Mr Rogerson.

As he sentenced Pantin, Judge Davies said: “The prosecution say you breached those bail conditions [not to contact his estranged wife] 13 times. You say you breached them 8 or 9 times.

“Astonishingly, despite you admitting the breach of your bail conditions, you were not arrested and put in custody. I require the prosecution and the police to explain that to me. I will have it explained to me.

“People who are victims of domestic violence will get this court’s protection. You may not have hit her or caused her physical injury but you caused persistent and continuous psychological injury of a completely extreme type.”

There was no evidence his wife had been unfaithful, said the judge.

The court heard how Pantin’s controlling behaviour happened between August 2017 and May of last year; and the stalking between May 19 and November 15 last year. His behaviour got progressively worse after his wife became a police community support officer, which he was not happy about.

Mrs Pantin told the court: “Slowly, I stopped going out, stopped going to the gym; the clothes I wore were different: I chose clothes that covered me up, were looser; I automatically said no to nights outs with friends. I’d become conditioned to make those choices. My life became about Neil...

“Neil doesn’t have to be violent to have control; to win, and to inflict pain on me and make me feel as small and as insignificant as I do.” ”

Jeff Smith, for Pantin, of Central Avenue, Harraby said he adored his wife but felt she “misconstrued” his behaviour. He now accepted the marriage was over. Pantin was banned from contacting his victim for a decade.

A Cumbria Police spokesman said: “His Honour Judge Davies’ comments have been duly noted and we are in the process of reviewing our response to any reported breaches of bail.

“It is therefore not appropriate to comment further at this time.

“Cumbria Police take all reports of domestic abuse seriously and do the upmost to protect victims in these cases. Bail conditions are there to protect the public and we will review this case.”