10:11, February 25 230 0 theguardian.com

2020-02-25 10:11:05
Domestic abuser jailed after landmark appeal by solicitor general

A violent domestic abuser has been imprisoned for three years after the solicitor general successfully challenged his previous sentence in a landmark case in the court of appeal.

Joshua Dalgarno, 25, was charged last year with controlling and coercive behaviour towards his former partner, taking a conveyance without authority and causing criminal damage. He was sentenced to a 24-month community order at Taunton crown court in December.

The solicitor general, Michael Ellis QC, personally argued at the court of appeal on Tuesday that the community order was too lenient and the sentence should be increased.

The judges agreed and increased Dalgarno’s sentence to three years imprisonment. He was told he had to surrender himself into custody by Tuesday afternoon.

The case is the first of its kind covered by the expanded unduly lenient sentence scheme, which allows victims or members of the public to ask the attorney general to consider referring a sentence to the court of appeal for reconsideration if they believe the sentence is too lenient.

In September 2019, the government extended the scheme to include 14 new offences, including a range of child sexual abuse crimes, stalking and the domestic abuse charge of controlling or coercive behaviour.

“This is the first of its type and its particularly important to send a message that this type behaviour, which was graphic, which was prolonged, which was pernicious, must be met with appropriate criminal sanction,” Ellis said after the sentencing.

He added: “It’s a matter of public policy that this type of appalling domestic abuse, including violence, should be met with a sentence that the general public would expect, namely one of imprisonment, and I’m pleased the court of appeal has increased the sentence accordingly.”

Between July and September 2019, Dalgarno was regularly violent towards his former partner, stabbing her in the leg with a penknife on one occasion and smashing her head against a windscreen on another, the court was told. The victim was pregnant at the time of much of the violence.

Dalgarno repeatedly accused his former partner of being unfaithful, controlled use of her phone and isolated her from her family. The court was told Dalgarno would take the victim’s phone to read her messages, blocked her from contacting her twin sister and would call 60-80 times a day when she was not with him.

The victim would close her eyes when she was with him so he could not accuse her of looking at other men. Dalgarno was a regular cocaine user, which exacerbated his violent behaviour, the court heard.

He has an extensive history of abuse and violence to his previous partners, with a previous judge warning that if he did not break the cycle of violence he would end up killing someone.

The sentencing comes at a time of debate over the pressures of overcrowding on the prison estate, with Boris Johnson pledging to create an extra 10,000 prison places. But his hardline approach to criminal justice has been criticised as populist by campaigners.

Ellis said: “There will be circumstances where judges are quite right in passing sentences focused on work in the community and on rehabilitation, but proper sentences must include punishment for this appalling type of domestic violence and it’s only right that victims can see that sentences of appropriate length are passed for this type of appalling offending.”

He added: “Punishment is an important part of the criminal justice system and this case certainly merited appropriate punishment.”

The unduly lenient sentence scheme already includes crimes such as murder and robbery and a range of terror offences. Ellis said the scheme was constantly under review to ensure victims saw justice was being done and the public was protected.