But things are not always as they seem. We are all too used to seeing cases where it is the male who inflicts the violence upon a female partner, however in this instance the traditional roles were reversed.
On 22 April 2015, we came across the story in the Mirror of 22 year old Ann Malsbury.
She had been in a relationship with 21 year old Lee Judson for around 18 months. When that relationship came to an end, Malsbury struggled to come to terms with that fact. Judson went to her home to collect a few of his belongings and as he bent down to pick something up from the floor, Malsbury jumped onto his back and placed an iPod charging cable around his neck, in an attempt to strangle him.
Judson managed to free himself at which point Malsbury armed herself with a kitchen knife. She stabbed at Judson several times, penetrating his clothing but inflicting no injury. She also tried to hit him over the head with a saucepan.
She was arrested on suspicion of attempted GBH with intent (section 18) and placed on remand. Having spent three months on remand (the equivalent of a 6-month prison sentence, because of the way in which the release provisions operate), she applied for, and was granted, bail.
She subsequently offered a plea to a charge of affray and the attempted section 18 was dropped.
The prosecution accepted that Malsbury had been suffering from depression and was distressed about the relationship coming to an end.
The CPS guidance about the offence of affray states:
It must be proved that a person has used or threatened:
- unlawful violence;
- towards another;
- and his conduct is such as would cause;
- a person of reasonable firmness;
- present at the scene;
- to fear for his personal safety.
The maximum sentence is 3 years.
The judge imposed a community order with two requirements: 18 months’ supervision and (presumably) a programme requirement to undergo a Women’s Emotional Wellbeing course.
The Judge said:
“You were obviously in a state of considerable distress and made threats towards him using, among other things, a knife.
“You fortunately did not injure him in any way, and I take that as a sign that you did not really intend to cause him any real injury.
“You stopped this of your own accord and called the police. You did so as a cry for help.”
Many readers will no doubt think this sentence is lenient. Some will no doubt point to the fact that this is female defendant and “if it were a man he’d have gone inside”. Perhaps. But what is necessary is to examine what is the right thing to do in this particular case.
The injuries caused were minor – the news report states there was some “reddening to the neck” and that she had kicked him. There is no doubt that the offence is made out (hence her guilty plea) but it is certainly at the lower end of seriousness when considering the range of behaviour that is encompassed in affray.
Malsbury spent 3-months on remand (the equivalent of a 6 month sentence, which, taken account of her guilty plea makes for a 9 month sentence after a trial) and so it is clear that there was no need to imprison Malsbury further; she clearly has some issues which need to be addressed and the best method is a non-custodial sentence which allows her to address the issues over time. The alternative would have been to impose immediate custody which would have seen her serve little if any additional time in custody, thereby preventing her from undergoing a course or addressing any of her issues.
Overall, a sensible result.