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Successful unduly lenient sentence intervention

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Solicitor General, Michael Ellis QC MP, coercive and controlling behaviour, Court of Appeal, lentient sentence, prison sentence, Joshua Dalgarno, violence, pregnant partnerSolicitor General intervened “to send a message that cases of domestic abuse are treated seriously.”

A man who used abusive and violent behaviour to control his partner has had his sentence increased following intervention by the Solicitor General, the Rt Hon Michael Ellis QC MP, who presented the case at the Court of Appeal.

Joshua Dalgarno, aged 25, abused his partner between July and September 2019.

He was regularly violent towards her, and on one occasion stabbed her in the leg with a pen knife. On another, he smashed her head against a windscreen. Much of the violence towards his partner took place in September 2019, when Dalgarno knew she was pregnant. She later lost the baby.

When she was admitted to hospital with an infection, he accused her of lying about the infection and threatened to pull her drip out.

Throughout the relationship, Dalgarno repeatedly accused her of being unfaithful, controlled use of her phone and isolated her from her family.

His regular cocaine use exacerbated his violent behaviour.

He was arrested in August 2019, but continued to be abusive toward her after his arrest; he was then arrested again in September 2019 – and released subject to bail conditions that stipulated he was not to contact his partner.

Dalgarno ignored these conditions and stole her car. He then drove to his partner’s sister’s home and tried to break down her door. He was subsequently arrested again and charged with controlling and coercive behaviour, taking a conveyance without authority and causing criminal damage.

He was sentenced to a 24-month community order on 16 December 2019 at Taunton Crown Court.

But following a referral to the Court of Appeal by the Solicitor General, on 25 February the sentence was found to be unduly lenient and has been increased to a custodial sentence of 3 years’ imprisonment.

Dalgarno had a string of convictions dating back to 2009, including four for violence against partners, but his history of offending was not put before the judge who sentenced him to the 24-month community order with a requirement to complete a “building better relationships” course, Lord Justice Simon, one of the three Court of Appeal judges reviewing the sentence, said.

He said that the crown court judge’s original sentence had focused on seeing if “the cycle of violence towards women could be broken” and there was nothing wrong with passing sentence on this basis.

However, he added that the sentence should have reflected the “criminally oppressive behaviour” and that Dalgarno should have been jailed rather than being given “yet another chance”.

This 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 that sentence is too lenient.

The government extended the scheme in September 2019 so that it included 14 new offences, including a range of child sexual abuse crimes, stalking and the domestic abuse charge of controlling or coercive behaviour.

Speaking after the hearing the Solicitor General said: “Dalgarno is an extremely dangerous individual. His actions caused severe harm to his former partner and those around her.

“I wanted to present this case to the Court of Appeal Judges personally today because of the abhorrent nature of the crimes committed by this man and to send a message that cases of domestic abuse are treated seriously.

“I welcome his sentence being increased today.”

If you or someone you know needs help or advice about domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247 or go to Women’s Aid’s website.

In an emergency or if you feel threatened, you can call 999 and ask for the police.

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