Man escapes prison because of empathetic victim

Bradford Crown Court
Bradford Crown Court

A 26-year-old man has avoided an immediate prison sentence after a judge read an ‘understanding’ statement from his victim.

Ella Whitehead feared she was going to die after former boyfriend Christian Highley sneaked into the house where she was living and attacked her in a bedroom.

During the assault last October Highley put his hands round Miss Whitehead’s throat and squeezed so hard she couldn’t breathe.

“She describes desperately trying to gasp in some air and how she thought she was going to die,” prosecutor Mark McKone told Bradford Crown Court.

Highley was said to be “ranting” and demanding to know the truth about the recent break-down in the couple’s relationship.

The attack, which began after Highley got into the locked property through a coal-chute into the cellar area, continued with the defendant kicking Miss Whitehead in the ribs as she curled up in a ball on the floor.

Mr McKone said the defendant again put his hands round the victim’s neck and told her she was going to die.

As the assault continued Miss Whitehead screamed for help in the hope that neighbours might hear her and the mid-day attack ended after someone knocked on the door of the house.

Although Miss Whitehead couldn’t find the keys to get out of the house she managed to escape through a living room window.

The court heard that she suffered swelling, bruising and reddening to various parts of her body.

Highley, of Greencroft Avenue, Northowram, Halifax, later told his senior mental health nurse that he had done something really stupid.

When he was questioned about the attack Highley told police he couldn’t remember much about it.

Highley pleaded guilty to a charge of assault and today Judge Colin Burn read reports about him, including one from a psychiatrist, and a statement made by Miss Whitehead.

Judge Burn said the complainant was certainly understanding of the defendant’s difficulties and hoped he would seek treatment.

The judge was told that Highley was motivated to work with the probation service and felt disgusted with himself.

Sentencing Highley to 14 months in prison, suspended for two years, Judge Burn said Miss Whitehead’s statement was largely taken up with sympathy and understanding for him.

“As I have already observed to the barristers in this case that says a lot about Miss Whitehead,” noted the judge.

“I am satisfied that you feel very remorseful, very bad, about what you did on the day in question and you should because it must have been very frightening for her.

“It seems to me that the best way to prevent you from re-offending is going to be to help you to continue the work that you have already been doing to get rid of your drug habit.

“If it were not for the views expressed by Miss Whitehead you would have been leaving court via a different door.”

As part of the sentence Highley will have to do 150 hours unpaid work and take part in a 30-day activity programme.

Judge Burn also imposed an indefinite restraining order which bans Highley from contacting Miss Whitehead.