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17 Feb 2014 – 05:03PM
By Glen Keogh
A Manchester doctor who mauled his ex-wife’s face after he found out she had begun dating a family friend escaped jail today after a judge said he had shown ‘courage’ by pleading guilty.
NHS consultant psychiatrist Paul Strickland, 51, sank his teeth into Dr Judith Richardson’s cheek in the belief she had been ‘gloating’ about her new relationship.
During the assault at his home, Strickland kept biting Dr Richardson for five seconds before he pushed her against a wall and a car and smashed up her spectacles by bending the arms back. Dr Richardson, also 51, a public health specialist, was left with a bite injury to her cheek and a £500 repair bill for her glasses.
She initiallly made a complaint to police but later withdrew her statement fearing conviction would ruin her estranged husband’s career with the NHS in Salford, Trafford and Bolton, Greater Manchester.
Strickland, who also an ‘honorary’ university lecturer, later claimed he carried out the assault while under ‘stress’ at work due to him being made the subject of a complaint about his professional conduct. He specialises in providing services for people with mental health and personality difficulties in the community and in prisons.
At Manchester magistrates court, Strickland – who himself has a girlfriend – admitted assault and criminal damage and was given a six month community order and pay costs of £85 and a £60 victim surcharge.
He now faces a disciplinary investigation by the General Medical Council and has been referred himself for psychiatric treatment over his behaviour. Earlier the court was told the couple who once lived in a £560,000 detached house in Didsbury, Manchester had been married for 20 years but had split up acrimoniously due to his ‘increasingly controlling and jealous’ behaviour.
He had reportedly assaulted his wife in 2009 but she made no complaint at that time. The couple separated in 2010 and divorced in 2012. The assault occurred in January after Strickland discovered Dr Richardson was in a relationship with another man. Initially he left seven voicemail messages on his estranged wife’s phone then decided to confront her at the home of her new boyfriend. Strickland banged on the front door but no one answered and he left the scene.
But prosecutor David Graham said trouble erupted later that afternoon when Dr Richardson went to Strickland’s home. ”He opened the door and immediately began an assault – pushing her onto a wall and biting her cheek for five seconds before pushing her backwards against the car. He took glasses off her face and snapped them causing £500 damage,” he said. “As a result she was left with a bite mark to her cheek. This could be seen as a high level assault of its type. ”Three days before he entered guilty pleas she withdrew her statement. She is concerned a conviction would leave her financially ruined. He has no previous convictions and a restraining order is not requested.”
In mitigation defence barrister Brigid Baillie said: ”He has been on anti-depressants for two years. He came off them in November last year and that was when things began to get on top of him. “Things built up and he didn’t deal with them. He was experiencing stress at work. He may be called a whistleblower. As a consultant psychiatrist he complained about the level of care and facilities on offer.
”Because he made the complaints public he then became the subject of a complaint for complaining or making public his disagreement with the level of service on offer to patients. “He also felt his ex-wife had been gloating over the new relationship. At the time her new partner was a mutual friend.”
Miss Baillie added: ”He continues to care for two elderly relatives. His mother has dementia and he has power of attorney. He sometimes gets phone calls from the police that she would go missing. “His aunt is 90 and very frail and wants to die. All this is coincided with him stopping anti-depressants.
”He is now in a situation where he faces internal investigation. He has been off work since the middle of last month due to illness and is back on anti-depressants and feeling much clearer in thinking and much better.
“He has a referral for psychotherapy and also a referral for behaviour therapy as a result of a brain injury following a fall which resulted in epilepsy. The frontal lobe was damaged and it could have had an effect on his behaviour. “He feels ashamed and very regretful it happened in the first place. There is genuine remorse. He is keen to move forward. He accepts his wife has a relationship – the difficulty was it was a mutual friend.
”He is in a relationship and wants to move forward. He finds it hard to understand how he could behave in that way. He puts it down to stress and his decision to come off anti-depressants.
“His wife doesn’t want anything to happen to him. He pays her £3,500 per month – a large sum of money. ” Passing sentence District Judge Paul Richardson said: “Much of the background is very sad but it is not unique. People go through stuff a good deal worse than you have suffered and it does not result in violence.
”You had the courage to plead guilty. With your background it makes it more difficult to face up to what has happened. “I’m hoping you will find value in this because you are in new territory with people who find themselves in circumstances such as this more than you.”