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Judge faces complaint over sentence

Three police and crime commissioners have made an official complaint about a judge who allowed a vicious husband to escape jail despite him admitting serious domestic abuse.

Anthony Bruce, 34, pleaded guilty to assault occasioning actual bodily harm and witness intimidation and was handed a 12-month jail sentence which was suspended for a year.

Judge George Moorhouse, sitting at Teesside Crown Court this week, heard how Bruce terrorised his wife by biting and throttling her, held a knife to her throat and shot her in the toe with a pellet.

After he was arrested, Bruce, who is from Chester-le-Street, County Durham, phoned her warning her not to give evidence.

In a statement, Ron Hogg, Barry Coppinger and Vera Baird - the PCCs for Durham, Cleveland and Northumbria who have a joint campaign on domestic violence - said they felt the sentence was unduly lenient.

They have written to the Judicial Conduct and Investigations Office to complain.

Ms Baird said: "Judge Moorhouse does not appreciate that he has a role to play in stopping the epidemic crime of domestic violence and abuse.

"This sentence sends out the totally wrong message to victims of this crime.

"Barry Coppinger, Ron Hogg and myself have worked hard to deliver a regional strategy to help protect women and girls who are affected by domestic violence and abuse.

"We've changed the culture in how the police deal with such cases and our partners work much closer together to offer support and guidance to victims, then we are let down by the courts with lenient sentences like this."

In their letter of complaint the PCCs said Judge Moorhouse needs to be accountable for his actions and to understand that his conduct is not acceptable.

They said the judge had sent out the wrong message to women that male judges will not take a role in protecting them or deterring the crime from which they suffer.

The commissioners also feel judges should undergo training to learn about the effects of domestic abuse and how it hurts both the victims and their families.

Ms Baird added: "I don't want victims of domestic abuse to be put off from telling the police what is happening to them."

The Crown Prosecution Service has explained it cannot appeal against the sentence due to the nature of the offences admitted.

The Judicial Conduct and Investigations Office cannot look into judgments, verdicts or sentencing decisions.

Among the relatively narrow issues it can investigate are the use of inappropriate language, falling asleep and general rudeness.

A spokesman said: "The JCIO was set up to investigate the conduct of judicial office holders.

"It makes clear on its website that it cannot investigate a judgment or sentence. It has not yet received a formal complaint from the three police and crime commissioners."

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