09:08, July 29 52 0 theguardian.com

2019-07-29 09:08:04
Domestic abuse victim to go into hiding as ex freed after six months

A woman who was left with life-changing injuries after being beaten by her ex-partner says she will go into hiding when he is released from prison after serving six months.

Abigail Blake sustained a broken back and neck and was left permanently disabled after being attacked by Sebastian Swamy at their home in July 2017. The judge in the case said the attack had had a “hugely serious and catastrophic” effect on Blake’s life.

Swamy was initially charged with causing grievous bodily harm with intent but admitted a lesser charge of grievous bodily harm (GBH), saying he had been drinking heavily on the night of the attack.

Blake, from Knutsford in Cheshire, said she was advised to accept his plea bargain, believing Swamy would spend a minimum of 20 months of a three-year sentence in prison. However, she has since learned that the time Swamy spent on bail wearing an electronic tag was taken into account for his custodial sentence.

Blake is calling for increased support and guidance for victims of domestic abuse, saying that had she been aware of the reduced custodial sentence she would not have accepted the plea bargain.

“The whole thing is just so wrong. It’s neither a punishment for him for what he has done. It’s not enough time for us to heal. The whole thing has been like mental torture from start to finish. Six months is not enough time for him to have been rehabilitated or for us to recover from what he has done,” she said.

“I can’t imagine he has reformed in any way whatsoever. The system is not there for victims like me. It has serious flaws. My life has completely changed because of this but he is out again. It’s very hard to deal with.”

Blake had been with Swamy for three years before the attack. Swamy, 40, kicked her to the ground and stamped on her back and chest. Blake was rescued by neighbours as she lay unconscious outside the couple’s home. She had a severed spinal cord and a punctured lung.

Swamy disappeared for five days before handing himself in to a police station. During sentencing 17 months later he was also given an indefinite restraining order.

Upon his release from Wrexham prison, Swamy will travel to his family home in Berkshire. He will not be tagged or accompanied during the journey, and Blake said as a result she would have to go into hiding.

Blake, a mother of two, said: “He is out next week and me and the children won’t be safe at home so we will have to go into a hotel. We are very frightened and I cannot believe that I’m being put in this position so soon after he went into prison. There needs to be a change so that victims like me are given the right advice throughout the judicial process.”

Saskia Lightburn-Ritchie, the chief executive of My CWA, a domestic violence charity that has supported Blake, urged the Ministry of Justice to review sentencing and release guidelines to protect victims.

She said: “I am very pleased that by working closely with Cheshire police and the local domestic abuse family safety unit, we have ensured that Abi not only knows when the perpetrator will be released but that we have a plan in place so that she remains safe. We know only too well that sentencing in domestic abuse cases is inconsistent and short sentences are common.”

The Ministry of Justice said the law stated that time spent wearing an electronic tag must count towards custody time as suspects’ freedom was restricted.

A spokesperson said: “We understand the distress caused to victims when their attacker is released from prison. Anyone released on licence is subject to very strict conditions, including large exclusion zones, and faces swift recall to prison if those are broken.”

The spokesperson said most offenders were not accompanied by probation officers when they left custody.

Topics