A Lerwick man who pulled his wife out of bed and beat her so badly she needed morphine in hospital for the pain has avoided further time in prison. Instead, George Michael Watt, 45, was let out on probation to live at his mother’s house in town after spending the equivalent of a five-month sentence in jail on remand.
Lerwick Sheriff Court heard that the door was “not entirely closed” on the relationship between Watt and his wife and family with some contact having resumed since the attack on 19th May.
As part of his two-year probation he will have to do 200 hours voluntary work and attend a course called Men who are Violent to Women, designed to reduce the threat he poses to his wife.
The attack happened after the couple had been at a funeral and wake. They returned to their house at Murrayston in Lerwick at about 6pm but Watt went out again about three hours later to continue drinking in town.
In one of the bars some of his acquaintances made fun of him, alleging that his wife had affairs some years earlier. Procurator fiscal Duncan MacKenzie said Watt had carried on drinking before returning home after 2am, drunk and incensed about the claims that had been made.
His wife was asleep in bed when he switched on the light and began shouting and swearing at her, waking another female in the house. After pulling his wife from the bed by her hair he began punching and kicking her “fairly ferociously and indiscriminately” while she tried to protect herself with her hands.
He only stopped his attack after the other occupant appeared and screamed at him. The two females fled to another house.
An ambulance and the police were soon on the scene and officers detained Watt nearby. He said he was on his way to the station and he fully admitted assaulting his wife.
Mr MacKenzie said she was in so much pain she was unable to speak and required morphine to alleviate her suffering. Among her injuries was a broken cheek bone and nerve damage which has required a metal plate to be fitted.
Watt’s solicitor Tommy Allan said there was no excuse or justification for the attack and his client had never tried to suggest there was. Indeed, he had felt that a prison sentence was entirely justified.
He said it would be perfectly understandable if Mrs Watt wanted no more to do with him but in fact the door was “not entirely closed” although he would have to convince her it would not happen again.
Sheriff Napier said he faced a fairly stark choice between imposing further time in custody or following the advice of social workers and allowing probation and re-education.
He remarked that custody in domestic violence cases often caused further problems for the victim and family if they depended on the man’s income. He also said that to contemplate taking a partner back after such a brutal attack could seem misguided to an outsider who did not know the circumstances.
Addressing Watt, he said the attack had been “absolutely appalling behaviour” but taking account of the 10 weeks served on remand and the plan devised by social workers he decided the community interest was best served by letting him out on licence from the court for two years. Any offence of any kind or failure to comply with his probation conditions would see him jailed.
As well as the course on violence and his community service he will have to live at his mother’s address and limit contact with his wife to that permitted by his social worker.
Watt was convicted in 2008 of an alcohol-fuelled attack on a man he saw kissing his wife at a party in Lerwick, for which the Sheriff now recognised he had been too lenient in imposing only a fine.