A violent and abusive woman who assaulted and threatened her husband during a ‘shocking’ 20-year campaign of terror grinned in court as she was led away from the dock to begin a four-year jail sentence. Heavy-drinking mother-of-three Sheree Spencer punched, kicked, slapped and bit him during persistent ‘nasty’ attacks that left him fearful and feeling trapped, the court heard.
She controlled all aspects of his daily life, prosecutors said, including which room he could sleep in and which toilet he could use, and threatened to make false allegations about him to police.
A judge was told that in one attack, Spencer viciously hit him with a wine bottle, leaving him disfigured with a ‘cauliflower ear’ and a chipped elbow. She was sometimes drinking up to three bottles of wine a day during the appalling ‘catalogue’ of abuse, the court heard.
At Hull Crown Court Spencer, 45, of Beals Close, Market Weighton, East Yorkshire, admitted coercive and controlling behaviour between January 2016 and June 2021 and three offences of assaulting her husband, causing actual bodily harm, between January and April 2020.
Michele Stuart-Lofthouse, prosecuting, said that the couple had been together since 2000 and lived in Bubwith, near Selby, at the time. They had three young children. Spencer’s violent behaviour towards her husband came to light after police were alerted because of concerns, reports Hull Live.
Spencer spat at her husband and grabbed him by the throat during one incident, causing him breathing difficulties. Her behaviour changed when they were living in London and she pushed and slapped him and was aggressive, the court heard. She hit him on the back of the head with a wine glass, causing an injury that needed stitching.
The husband handed over 43 photographs of injuries, 36 video clips and nine mobile phone recordings to the police. She regularly assaulted him and verbally abused him, Ms Stuart-Lofthouse said. The assaults included kicking, punching, hitting, biting and spitting at him and she regularly hurled insults at him. She damaged his property, including laptops, phones, clothes and household items.
Spencer’s “unpredictable and threatening” behaviour caused her husband to become estranged from his family. She assaulted him with a wine bottle during one incident and he suffered a disfigured ear and a chipped elbow. A neighbour heard abusive language regularly being used by Spencer towards him.
She was heard saying: “You’re not a f***ing man. I want you out of my life.” In one incident, she damaged a tyre on his car using a kitchen knife. She lunged at him with the knife, causing a 2cm cut below his knee.
Her husband said in a statement that he read to the court that he had suffered 20 years of physical and mental abuse that was damaging. He feared that he would never fully recover from the abuse and he felt that he had to hide it from friends and family.
He complied with her demands and she controlled all aspects of his daily life, including which room he could sleep in and which toilet he could use. “She threatened to make false allegations to me to the police,” he said. He felt “trapped” and he “feared the consequences of speaking out” and became “increasingly hardened” to the abuse, including kicking and punching.
Spencer’s husband said that, after she was arrested, the problems continued during Family Court hearings through her claiming that she was the victim and by using character assassination against him.
He had to defend himself against allegations. “She continued to exert her control over me,” he said. She was “unnecessarily obstructive” and it was three months before she would allow the family home to be sold.
“I have had to seek help from my GP on several occasions,” said the husband. His emotional wellbeing had deteriorated.
Defence barrister Richard Pratt KC said that there was “little if anything” that could be said in mitigation. “It’s a shocking, distressing case,” said Mr Pratt. “Alcohol played the most significant part in what happened.”
The mixture of alcohol and prescription medication caused her to behave in a way that “appalled” her. She accepted that she had caused great pain and humiliation to her husband. “What happened was dreadful,” said Mr Pratt.
The offences were prolonged over a long period of time. It was an irony that Spencer had, during her job with the Ministry of Justice, been working on a project connected with the impact of custodial sentences on families. She had an “excellent work record” but had a previous conviction for affray.
Judge Kate Rayfield said that Spencer had a “short temper” and was controlling and coercive to her “vulnerable” husband, who was the victim of her outbursts for many years. Two hours of recorded incidents had been compiled and it could not be “overstated how shocking” it was.
The filmed or recorded incidents revealed “persistent, nasty physical and emotional abuse” on a frequent basis, sometimes several times in a day. Spencer threatened and assaulted her husband and he “cowered sometimes on his hands and knees on the floor”. Undeterred, Spencer continued to assault him by spitting, punching him, grabbing his hair, slapping him, kicking and biting him as well as threatening to take his head off, rip his heart out and break his teeth.
Spencer showed “utter contempt for him” and sometimes “whispered in his face in the most sinister way” as well as shouting orders at him. She had been drinking up to three bottles of wine a day.
“You have caused him significant psychological harm,” said Judge Rayfield. “There is a history of violence and abuse against the same victim.” Spencer was given an indefinite restraining order. As she left the dock to be taken down to the cells, she grinned.