A violent thug who left his fiancée blind in one eye has had his jail term slashed on appeal – sparking concerns courts are being too lenient on domestic abusers.
Robert Fitzpatrick, 46, of no fixed address, subjected his victim to horrific abuse for more than a year.
His brutal attacks including headbutting her and breaking her wrist and he was last year jailed for 20 years and six months after admitted two counts of intentional GBH, assault occasioning actual bodily harm and a plot to pervert the course of justice.
But his sentence was reduced by four years after three top judges agreed the punishment was “excessive”.
“Serious as these offences were, we feel that this was too long,” Lord Justice Simon told London’s Court of Appeal.
Speaking after the sentencing at Preston Crown court in November, Fitzpatrick’s victim Laura Adams told The Gazette she had been through a “year of hell”.
Describing the attack that robbed her of her sight in one eye, she said: “I thought he was going to kill me.
“I ran out the front door and I have never looked back since.”
She said how she had become trapped in the relationship and for months had felt unable to leave – having her wages taken from her, for example – while the torment continued.
“I have had black eyes and bruises,” she said. “I was frightened to death of the guy.
“I was scared to leave him – I couldn’t walk away.
“I had nowhere to go.”
The Court of Appeal heard the relationship between the couple had involved “controlling and abusive” behaviour from Fitzpatrick.
But Lancashire-based domestic abuse solicitor Rachel Horman said after the latest hearing that domestic abuse cases are often not dealt with harshly enough.
She said: “Domestic abuse should be taken more seriously than it is.
“Generally speaking,if you did something to a stranger in the street you would get a harsher sentence than if you did it to your partner in your own home.
“In my opinion this is worse because there is a breach of trust.”
At appeal, the court heard Fitzpatrick feared abandonment and, following an argument at their engagement party, he attacked her at a friend’s house, headbutting her in the
She left him, but was later persuaded to return, only to be attacked again more seriously by him, the court was told.
During another row, he tried to hit her over the head with a glass bottle, hitting and breaking her wrist when she put her arm up to defend herself.
In the final assault, he attacked her in front of one of his friends, pushing her over and pummelling her with his fists, causing serious eye damage.
She reported the attacks to police, but while in prison on remand he attempted to get her to drop the case against him.
He obtained a mobile phone in jail and used it contact a friend, Lee Jumeaux, who then offered the victim up to £30,000 to drop the allegations.
The then-38-year-old, of Park Road, Blackpool, was last year jailed for two years for conspiring to pervert the course of justice.
Speaking after last year’s court hearing, Det Con Matt Hodgson, of Blackpool Police, said Fitzpatrick has “carried out a campaign of violence”, adding: “This is one of the most horrific cases I have had to deal with in 14 years of policing and I am pleased the courts have taken it as seriously as we did.”
Explaining the decision to cut Fitzpatrick’s jail term by years, Lord Justice Simon said: “The crimes were serious and repeated crimes of violence, committed against a domestic partner.
“Threats and persuasions not to report his offending were also significant factors to bear on the overall seriousness of the offending.
“Having considered the matter carefully, we are persuaded that the overall sentence of 20-and-a-half years was too long.”
Fitzpatrick’s custodial term was cut to 16-and-a-half years, but a four-year extended licence will remain in place.
Domestic violence solicitor Rachel Horman said: “My experience is that courts tend to be lenient on domestic abuse. They shouldn’t be, but in practice they are.
“Domestic abuse should be taken more seriously than it is. Generally speaking,if you did something to a stranger in the street you would get a harsher sentence than if you did it to your partner in your own home.
“In my opinion this is worse because there is a breach of trust.
“It should be treated in the same way but very often it isn’t and often it’s due to a lack of understanding from judges.
“I have heard judges often say things like ‘why didn’t she leave?’
“People never ask me ‘why do men abuse women?’. It’s putting responsibility on the victim and blaming them.
“In some cases where a couple has split up and the man is stalking the woman, it’s often reported as a ‘lovesick Romeo’ rather than a dangerous predator.
“At least victims can feel safe while their abusers are in prison, and that’s the key. While an abuser is locked up, the victim is not always looking over her shoulder. I have known people who have moved abroad when their abuser was released because they were so scared.
“At least this victim has some time when she doesn’t have to worry, but that is now significantly less.
“I think it’s disappointing and I think it might also put some victims off reporting because they think they won’t be taken seriously.
“I hope victims are not put off and will still report.”