A JUDGE has praised the courage of a north Cumbrian woman who survived rape and years of 'controlling' abuse by her obsessive partner.

At Carlisle Crown Court, Judge Suzanne Goddard QC formally declared the man responsible to be a 'dangerous' offender before jailing him for 12 years and putting him on the Sex Offender Register indefinitely.

Obsessed with sex and irrationally suspicious, the man - who cannot be named for legal reasons – denied wrongdoing but was convicted after a month-long trial.

The jury found him guilty of six offences: rape, using 'controlling and coercive' behaviour towards his partner, two counts of intimidation, and two allegations of voyeurism involving intimate sexual recordings.

Prosecutor Arthur Gibson outlined how the defendant – a man in his 40s who is skilled with computers – used that expertise to exert an oppressive control over every aspect of his partner's life.

Unbeknown to her, he recorded videos of them having sex – and then threatened to publish the recordings on social media if she ever left him.

The prosecution is among a growing number of cases in which police and courts are pursuing justice for victims of controlling and coercive behaviour in an intimate relationship, behaviour that became a crime in 2015.

READ MORE: Police record hundreds of coercive behaviour offences last year

As the defendant stood impassively in the dock, his victim read out her powerful personal account of the profound and lasting impact of his abusive behaviour over more than a decade.

She said: “It’s been just over a year since I was finally set free from the tightly bound shackles of a controlled, coercive and jealousy filled relationship that irreparably destroyed my life for so many years.

“I was a prisoner in that relationship and not a partner.”

Looking back on her ordeal, she said: “I am haunted by nightmares that wake me through the night of him dragging me by my feet, trying to pull me back under his control. I wake up sweating and terrified.

“Terrified that he will haunt my nightmares for the rest of my life. Terrified that unless he is given proper punishment, he will stalk and harass me forever.

“Leaving me trapped in my own home, unable to leave doors unlocked, unable to leave the dogs to play in the garden because of the fear that those hideous threats to kill them many years ago may well have come true…

“I have now moved my bed, so I sleep right under the bedroom window with the window wide open and on top of the covers. Ready to escape if ever he attempts to come to my house.

"That is the fear I will always have to live with.”

'His anger and jealousy always raged out of control'

Over the years, he assumed control of almost every aspect of her life, and would obsessively hack into her work Teams account and inspect her underwear because he irrationally suspected her of infidelity.

The woman detailed some of the abuse she suffered. “There were many horrific moments, but his anger and jealousy always raged out of control.

“His harassment and stalking whenever I tried to end the relationship saw me hiding in ditches on the side of busy roads, trying to escape out of his fast-moving car and circling trees and hedges, crawling through woods and fields so he couldn’t see me as he would drive up and down roads searching for me.

“Every time I tried to escape, I couldn’t. He hacked my location on my phone, so he knew I was close by. I’d hide in remote locations; railway embankments and he would always find me.

“There were many, many times I wished I were dead… I couldn’t even get my hair cut without him coming to sit at the hairdressers. I couldn’t move without him questioning why.

“It was draining and disturbing.”

She described how the man had made her cut all ties with friends.

She added: “I feel that because of his actions, [the defendant] has created huge psychological scars. They are embedded deep into me that serve as a reminder that I am now a survivor, and I am free to live my life how I wish...

“He told me on a regular basis he would kill me if I left. Either that or kill himself. He often told me he had a noose in the bedside drawer at his mum’s house and would one day use it on me or him. Those things kept me shackled to a relationship that was toxic and traumatic and I saw no way out."

She realised how at risk she was then he tried to smother her with a pillow, the court heard.

The woman thanked the police officers who investigated the case – Kate Cunningham and Kerry Gibson – and the witness support staff who stood by her during the trial.

The court heard also from the woman’s daughter.

“I have nightmares, every night,” she said. “Nightmares where I am begging for my mum to pack a bag and run with me, but [the defendant] gets home before we manage to get out the house and it all ends as I wake up screaming as he is about to hurt us.

“Nightmares where [the defendant] is trying to physically attack us, in those we are screaming for help, but no noise comes out. Those mental scars will never go away.”

As he opened the case, Mr Gibson told the jury: "[The victim] loved him, and in return she was abused, controlled, coerced and on one occasion actually raped by the defendant.

"Even after he was arrested on that night in May 2021 he would not leave her alone and tried to prevent her continuing with her complaints to the police."

'You have shown not one jot of remorse'

Judge Goddard said the defendant had shown a 'complete lack of insight and remorse'. She remarked on how even during the trial he had engineered delays as he sought to "exert further control" over his victim and the court.

Noting his 'obsessive personality' in relationships, the judge said that the man posed a danger to any females he may have a relationship with.

His victim's life quickly became a nightmare as he began controlling every aspect of her life. "You threatened and bullied her," said the judge, noting how the man was 'obsessed with sex'.

The defendant was assessed as being on the autistic spectrum but he had known his behaviour was wrong, said the judge. Even after he raped his victim and she pointed that out, he told her he did not care.

"You have shown not one jot of remorse," continued the judge.

She added: “I am satisfied that it is necessary to protect the public that an extended sentence of prison is imposed.” The man will not be eligible to apply for release from his 12-year sentence until he has served two thirds.

The sentence he received means he will remain at risk of recall to prison for a further three years after the 12-year term has passed. He will remain on the Sex Offender Register indefinitely.

The judge added: “I would like to commend the police officers for their work on this case and would like to commend [the victim] for her bravery in making her complaint to the police.”

Where to get help

Hundreds of offences for controlling and coercive behaviour were recorded in Cumbria last year, recent figures show.

Home Office figures reveal how Cumbria Constabulary received 249 reports of allegedly controlling and coercive behaviour in the year to March – though this is down from 335 in 2020-21, the first year such crimes are recorded in official data.