A MAN has been jailed for assaulting a woman who has since died in a car crash.

Peter Chambers, 37, had previously denied assaulting Bethanie Clark by beating her but changed his plea to guilty on June 1, as he was due to stand trial.

Chambers then submitted an application to vacate his guilty plea for the offence on Monday before he was sentenced at Workington Magistrates’ Court.

But his request was denied by magistrates, who felt Chambers was “fully aware” of the case against him when he pleaded guilty.

Chambers, who had legal representation at the time of his guilty plea, said he was now “not prepared to plead guilty to something he had not done”.

The defendant said he had always stuck by the saying, ‘honesty is the best policy’ and claimed he had felt 'pressured' to plead guilty.

In an offer of plea with the prosecution, Chambers had pleaded guilty to the assault and a separate charge of criminal damage to a toilet seat belonging to Bethanie Clark, was withdrawn.

Pamela Fee, prosecuting, said Chambers, who had come to court straight from Durham Prison on June 1, had 'full ability' to understand what was said to him and had a 'clear understanding' of the charge he faced.

Ms Fee said: “I oppose that application to change plea.

It was a straightforward guilty plea. “It’s unfortunate that Miss Clark died in a road traffic collision waiting for the case to come to court. He did become upset that Bethanie Clark had passed away.”

After refusing Chambers’ application to revoke the guilty plea, lead magistrate Mary Brough said: “It’s a straightforward case of common assault. The full facts have been outlined.

“You submitted a guilty plea.

"There’s nothing to suggest you were under pressure from your solicitor. You were fully aware of the case against you and the law.”

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Ms Fee said Miss Clark had made a statement to police before she died, having reported the assault on her, on the evening of April 13. In her statement, Miss Clark said Chambers had been at her house and they had been arguing.

She had asked him to leave and said she wanted to be alone. Miss Clark said Chambers had then damaged the toilet “in a fit of rage”.

Her statement went on to say: “I bent down to pick the keys up and Peter has barged through the door and hit my head off the door. He has then headbutted me. Nobody has a right to assault me.”

Miss Clark had suffered swelling and a burst nose. She had told police she wasn’t sure if her nose had been broken but she was 'too scared' to go to hospital because she didn’t want her mother, a healthcare worker, to be 'embarrassed' by her.

Miss Clark said Chambers “knew he had done wrong” and ran off into Parton, after the assault.

Ms Fee said police officers had arrived at Miss Clark’s house and saw her with injuries to her face.

There was fresh bleeding and swelling to her nose, the court heard. Miss Clark was 'upset' and 'intoxicated'.

She reported she had been assaulted to officers but because she had been drinking, they couldn’t take a statement from her until the following day.

Ms Fee said the defendant was interviewed and denied he had assaulted Miss Clark.

He told police she had attacked him and didn’t know how the injury had come about.

Chambers was also arrested for being in possession of a knife and possessing cannabis on April 14.

'Bethanie had a heart of gold'

A victim impact statement was read to the court by Bethanie Clark’s mother, Sue Clark.

She said: “Bethanie had a heart of gold but was easily led and suffered from addiction problems.

"She tragically lost her life in a road traffic accident. She sadly leaves behind a five-year-old little boy.

“Bethanie was assaulted but had to endure the process of court proceedings and investigation. The family has had to endure the case going to court.

"He is a liar. A vile, vulgar individual.

"He stalked my daughter when he was in prison. He stalks her now even when she is dead, by commenting on her Facebook. He was going to come to her funeral.”

Chambers, of Duke Street, Whitehaven, was also sentenced for possessing a knife blade in a public place and possessing a Class B drug in Whitehaven on April 14, and failing to surrender to police or court bail on April 19.

Passing sentence, Mrs Brough said: “These offences are so serious we can only consider custody.”

He was sentenced to a total of 24 weeks in custody. He must also pay £400 costs and a £128 victim surcharge on his release from prison.

READ MORE: Family pay tribute to Bethanie Clark, 31, who lost her life in car crash