Parish council chairman who choked his wife in drunken row avoids jail

Parish council chairman who choked his wife in drunken row avoids jail

Parish council chairman, 53, who choked his wife and smashed her head against a wall during drunken 3am row – two days before harsher domestic violence law came into effect – AVOIDS jail

  • Richard Charlton has avoided jail after choking his wife during a drunken row
  • India Charlton said she could ‘barely breathe’ during the June 5 beating 
  • He also grabbed her by the hair and smashed her head against a wall and a table 
  • He was found guilty of assault and jailed for 16 weeks, suspended for 18 months 
  • Had the attack occurred later, he would’ve faced non-fatal strangulation charges

A parish council chairman who strangled his wife until she could barely breathe during a drunken argument two days before harsher domestic violence law came into effect has avoided jail.

Richard Charlton, 53, a member of his local Round Table group, choked India Charlton, his wife of 23 years, during a vicious beating on June 5, 2022.

He grabbed Mrs Charlton, 49, by her hair before repeatedly smashing her head against a wall and a table, Warrington Magistrates Court heard.

Charlton was charged and later admitted assault by beating, a variation of the common assault offence which carries a maximum sentence of six months in custody.

He was sentenced on Tuesday to 16 weeks in prison, suspended for 18 months, and ordered that he complete 80 hours of unpaid work. He was also ordered to participate in 35 days of rehabilitation activity with the probation service and the 33-day Building Better Relationships programme.

The judge noted that had Charlton attacked his wife ‘on a slightly later date’ he would have been ‘charged with non-fatal strangulation’ under the Domestic Abuse Act 2021, which went into affect on June 7 of this year. Non-fatal strangulation carries a maximum sentence of five years.

The council chairman, who also earns £75,000 annually as a key account manager for a pharmaceutical firm, now faces losing his job.

Parish council chairman (left) has avoided jail after having choked his wife India (right) until she could barely breathe during a drunken argument on June 5

Charlton (pictured outside Warrington Magistrates Court) was sentenced on Tuesday to 16 weeks in prison, suspended for 18 months, and ordered that he complete 80 hours of unpaid work. He was also ordered to participate in 35 days of rehabilitation activity with the probation service and also in the 33-day Building Better Relationships programme

The judge noted that had Charlton attacked India (pictured) ‘on a slightly later date’ he would have been ‘charged with non-fatal strangulation’ under the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 which went into affect on June 7 of this year

How did the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 change strangulation and suffocation laws?

New legislation that went into effect on June 7, 2022 gave prosecutors powers to charge violent abusers with specific offences of non-fatal strangulation and non-fatal suffocation.

The Domestic Abuse Act 2021 set out a new legal definition that an individual ‘commits an offence of non-fatal strangulation if they intentionally strangle another person.’

The individual commits non-fatal suffocation when they perform any ‘other act that affects someone’s ability to breathe and constitutes battery.’

Both offences have the sentencing power of maximum five years’ imprisonment.

The maximum sentence for common assault is six months in custody.

The news laws followed concerns that perpetrators were avoiding punishment because strangulation and suffocation ‘can often leave no visible injury, making it harder to prosecute under existing offences such as Actual Bodily Harm.’

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said the lack of visible injury is ‘not a reason to detract from the seriousness of these offences.’

The new guidance also details when non-fatal strangulation and non-fatal suffocation can occur in rape or serious sexual offences, ‘by clarifying the ‘rough sex’ defence which makes clear victims cannot consent to the infliction of serious harm or death.’

Meanwhile, studies have shown that victims are more likely to be murdered by their partners when non-fatal strangulation occurred beforehand.

Police officers responded a neighbour’s residence at 3.26am on Sunday, June 5 following a call from West Midlands Ambulance Service. 

Mrs Charlton had managed to flee her own home and call for an ambulance after her husband assaulted her during an argument. It is not known what the row was about.

She told paramedics how Charlton had held her by the neck for a couple of seconds and banged her head against the wall, the court heard.

The first responder subsequently called police after Mrs Charlton had informed them of the assault. 

She told responding officers her husband had attacked her and showed how he had banged her head against a wall, stating: ‘Bang, bang, bang, bang.’

She said he then took her by hair, backed her towards the kitchen table and bent her backwards before putting his hands around her throat and banging her head ‘two or three times.’ 

‘She had called for an ambulance, saying that her partner was trying to strangle her and hit her head against the wall,’ prosecutor Natasha McAdam said.

The prosecutor said the officer saw a red mark on Mrs Charlton’s neck and amongst her blonde hair. 

She also complained of swelling and tenderness on her head, but there was no visible injury. 

‘Mrs Charlton told officers that her husband had grabbed hold of her head and pushed her back towards the kitchen and over the kitchen table,’ Ms McAdam stated. ‘He grabbed her around the neck and held her neck for a couple of seconds. She showed the officers how he had banged her head against the wall two or three times.’

Charlton – who served as chairman of Malpas Parish Council and is director of a local sports club – was later charged with assault and moved in with his sister in Stockton Heath, near Warrington.

Defence lawyer Steve Fearns said his client had a problem with alcohol and had been drinking for a significant period of time when the offence took place. 

‘The defendant has been extremely remorseful through these proceedings,’ Mr Fearns said of Charlton. 

Richard Charlton (left) grabbed India Charlton (right) by her blonde hair before repeatedly smashing her head against a wall and a table, Warrington Magistrates Court heard

India Charlton (pictured) told responding officers her husband had attacked her and showed how he had banged her head against a wall, stating: ‘Bang, bang, bang, bang.’ She said he then took her by hair, backed her towards the kitchen table and bent her backwards before putting his hands around her throat and banging her head ‘two or three times’

‘He was upset and aggrieved by his actions and he cannot believe he has done this. He has never done anything similar before.

‘Alcohol has clearly played a part in the offence. He had been working on trying to reduce alcohol intake. 

‘At the time of the offending he had consumed a lot more alcohol over a significant period of time, which is why he had issues with relation to his memory.’

Mr Fearns added: ‘He has been with the complainant for a long time – 27 years in the relationship and 23 years in marriage. She is residing in the marital home and he’s living with his brother and sister-in-law.

‘He is fully open to reconciliation, but he will respect his wife’s wishes. If she wishes it to be over, he will fully accept that. He will take responsibility for his actions because he is the one who has caused this significant issue. 

‘He earns £4,200 per month after deductions and hopes to be able to return to work. He is in charge of sales in the north and east Midlands for a large pharmaceutical company.

‘He is not sure if he will be able to return to that job for definite, but if he receives a community sentence, he is optimistic. If he receives a custodial sentence, even if it is suspended, the likelihood is that he will lose his job.

‘It will have an impact on the complainant as she resides in the marital home which requires that he pays the bills.’

Defence lawyer Steve Fearns said Richard Charlton (pictured) had a problem with alcohol and had been drinking for a significant period of time when the offence took place

Richard Charlton (pictured outside Warrington Magistrates Court) is a parish council chairman who also earns £75,000 annually as a key account manager for a pharmaceutical firm. He now faces losing his job

During the mitigation District Judge Jack McGava interjected to say the assault was a serious offence because of the strangulation and when told there were no visible injuries to Mrs Charlton, he retorted: ‘I don’t care.’

‘The lady thought she was going to die. Strangulation is very serious. Had the offence been committed on a slightly later date he would have been charged with non-fatal strangulation and he would have found himself in the crown court.

‘When somebody grabs somebody’s neck and stops them breathing, he exerts control. He can control if that person still lives. It makes the assault very serious. There has been a lot of research into this.

‘I appreciate that he was charged with common assault but that doesn’t really matter. It is an aggravating feature and it is very serious.’

Charlton faced jail after he admitted assault by beating but he was freed with a suspended sentence after his wife declined to support the prosecution. 

Assault by beating is a variation of the offence of common assault, set out in the Criminal Justice Act 1988. 

Assault by beating does not necessarily mean the victim was ‘beaten up,’ hit or kicked. They could have instead been pushed, grabbed or spat out. The victim also may not have suffered a physical injury, but if an injury was caused it would ‘need to be quite minor to fall under common assault,’ the Sentencing Council claims. 

Judge McGava said he suspended Charlton’s sentence because the council chairman had not been in trouble before. 

He told him: ‘I do give you credit for your guilty plea but this is a very serious assault. The victim in this case did not know what was going to happen. She feared she might die. She could not breathe.

‘This matter is made more serious by the domestic context. Your wife is entitled to believe that she is treated with love and respect and not treated like this. The fact that you were drunk is an aggravating feature, making it more serious and not less.

‘The offence is so serious that a fine or a community sentence cannot be justified.’

Charlton was also ordered to pay £248 in costs and victim surcharge. 

Additionally, no order for compensation or a restraining order was imposed as the prosecution was not supported by his wife.

Richard Charlton (pictured) faced jail after he admitted assault by beating but he was freed with a suspended sentence after his wife declined to support the prosecution. The judge said he had suspended the sentence because the council chairman had not been in trouble before

No order for compensation or a restraining order was imposed as the prosecution was not supported by India Charlton (pictured)

Mrs Charlton – a prolific charity fundraiser – is still living in the matrimonial home.

The court heard the couple had been together for 27 years, married for 23 years and have no children. 

On his council profile Charlton says: ‘I have been a past member of Round Table, a club for young men focused on charitable work in the community. I helped to restart the local darts league in Malpas in 2013 and manage the arrangements required to run the league while playing for the Sports Club.

‘I also enjoy gardening, DIY, playing guitar, playing cricket, restoring cars along with socialising with friends and family. I am also a life-long supporter of Chester Football Club. I feel passionately that all members of a community should have their voice heard and be given straight answers or solutions to their problems and concerns.

‘I also believe in celebrating community spirit and involving those parishioners who could feel isolated is crucial to the long term well-being of the Parish.’

In 2020, Mrs Charlton – who suffered from ME (chronic fatigue syndrome) for about 15 years – took part in a skydive to raise money for Alzheimers research. 

She was not in court on Tuesday for her husband’s case.

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