17th October 2017

Husband who subjected wife to years of domestic abuse jailed

, by , in Headlines, News, ST Online

A man who forced his wife to endure nearly three decades of brutal domestic abuse has been jailed for 32 months.

Robert Simmons, 62, of Sandness, previously admitted 11 charges dating from 1988 until March this year when he appeared at Lerwick Sheriff Court last month.

Robert Simmons arrives at Lerwick Sheriff Court on Wednesday morning. Photo: Dave Donaldson

Sheriff Philip Mann had told Simmons during that earlier court appearance to expect a stint in jail after procurator fiscal Duncan MacKenzie gave a lengthy and harrowing account of the emotional and physical abuse Simmons’ wife suffered.

On Wednesday the sheriff told Simmons that he was not expected to take a “hang ’em high, lynch mob attitude” despite calls in the media for the case to be sent to the High Court.

Instead, he chose to use his sentencing powers of up to five years in custody and told Simmons that if it had not been for his early plea the most likely sentence would have been four years.

After hearing the case presented by defence agent Tommy Allan the sheriff took a brief interval to consider his options.

When he returned Sheriff Mann told Simmons that he had considered a number of factors, including background reports, the fact that the early guilty plea meant Simmon’s victim did not have to give “distressing evidence” in court and the public interest in showing that “domestic abuse will not be tolerated” in order to reach his decision.

Representing Simmons Mr Allan said that it was his role to ensure that “everything that can be said for Mr Simmons is said”, though he also said that in the “strictest sense there can be no mitigation of the offences”.

Mr Allan said that the offences were divided into two parts, with a gap of well over a decade occurring between those in the late 1990s and the most recent incidents.

The defence agent also said that the crown’s representation of Mrs Simmons as so isolated she could not even meet friends for a cup of coffee was misleading. She had maintained the Lerwick flat that she had occupied before she met Mr Simmons and “would regularly stay there two or three nights a week”, Mr Allan said.

A quote attributed to Simmons and read out by Mr Allan said: “I did wrong. At no time did I think she deserved this. I see things differently now. I don’t think she deserved to be treated the way I treated her or to have the things I said to her said to her.”

Mr Allan alluded to a point which Simmons had supposedly raised himself, questioning how “a man of his age… would fare in a custodial setting”.

Summarising the defence Mr Allan said that he could not accept the opinion stated in criminal justice social work reports that only a custodial sentence was appropriate.

At the earlier hearing, Mr MacKenzie said the campaign of terror was “one of the very worst cases of domestic abuse” he had ever encountered. The fiscal then described the nature of the 11 charges against Simmons.

He said that the church-goer created an “almost cult-like atmosphere” in the family home, using his religion as justification for his “coercive and controlling” behaviour.

In one disturbing statement given in a police interview and relayed to the court Simmons said that his wife had taken “a vow of obedience to me”.

During their 30 year marriage Simmons was said to see himself as the authority in the household responsible for setting the rules and also for doling out punishment when those rules were broken.

But the rules “changed so frequently… that it became impossible for the complainer to get it right”, Mr MacKenzie said.

Simmons controlling behaviour was such that he dictated his wife’s every move by drawing up timetables which divided her day into 15-minute slots and even forced her to carry notebooks, including a “mistake book”, where she had to maintain a record of all the times she failed to please Simmons.

In another book she kept a “record of observations the accused would make about random aspects of life”. Police seized hundreds of these notebooks from their home, the fiscal said.

During the 1990s one method of punishment involved having his wife stand in an outbuilding while he hosed her with cold water.

In 1991 he forced her into the boot of a car after she fled the house and in the following year he compressed her throat to a point where breathing became restricted.

Another incident saw Simmons compel his wife to lie on the floor. He then placed his weight on her head by standing on it, giving her two black eyes.

In 1998 Simmons pushed his wife to the floor with a force that caused nerve damage which still causes discomfort to this day.

Another charge related to Simmons assaulting his wife in a car in May 2015, leaving her with a black eye and bloody nose. Later that year he hit her across the back of the legs with a plastic pipe.

After describing the 11 charges the fiscal went on to detail some of the statements Simmons had made to police after he was detained. On one occasion he confessed to doing “hands-on stuff”.

“She knows I’m serious when I do that”, he told the officers.

As well as the jail term Simmons was also given an indefinite non-harrassment order banning him from contacting his wife other than through a solicitor.