Campaigners against domestic violence condemn sentence for Justin Lee Collins
Domestic violence campaigners last night labelled as derisory the community service sentence handed to TV celebrity Justin Lee Collins after his conviction for the harassment of his former girlfriend.
The Bristol comedian must carry out 140 hours of unpaid work after being found guilty of harassing his “vulnerable” former partner Anna Larke.
Sentencing the bearded comic, who wore his trademark long hair down over his shoulders, the judge told him it should be “humbling work” for someone with such a prominent career in showbusiness.
But Sandra Horley, chief executive of charity Refuge, said: “Derisory sentences such as this simply reflect the need for further training to increase understanding of domestic violence and its impact – domestic violence kills two women a week.
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“Until the courts give sentences that fit the crime, men like Justin Lee Collins will get away with campaigns of terror and thousands of women, like Anna, will continue to be at risk.”
The 10-day trial at St Albans Crown Court heard that Bristol-born Collins, who made a name for himself as a host on Channel 4’s The Friday Night Project, was a controlling, jealous boyfriend who was physically violent towards Anna Larke.
Following sentencing, Ms Larke’s family released a statement describing their relief at the verdict.
It said: “We are absolutely ecstatic with the verdict and are relieved the jury were able to see through the lies of an abuser.
“We will not rest on our laurels in the wake of this good news and intend to go out into the world and use this experience to empower women to stand up to domestic abuse.”
The statement added that they would also campaign to put an end to “the much reported culture of celebrities using their positions to abuse people without fear of reprisal”.
Jurors heard that Collins, 38, subjected Larke, a video games public relations worker, to sustained emotional and domestic abuse during their seven-month relationship, and made her write down in a Pukka pad all her previous sexual encounters regardless of how graphic they were.
The court was told that Collins made her sleep facing him, throw away DVDs because they featured actors she found attractive and made death threats against her.
Collins also stopped Ms Larke using social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
He said a secret recording of him verbally abusing her showed him at his worst but denied all her other claims, saying he had never attacked her and had never hit anyone.
But giving her evidence to the court, Ms Larke said Collins attacked her in a hotel room in Miami in March last year. She had not shown her doctor her bruises because she did not want to get him into trouble.
“I didn’t want to do it to Justin. He was the love of my life,” she said.
Speaking from behind a screen, Larke, a recovering alcoholic, described being terrified about Collins returning from a trip to Las Vegas because she had failed to attend one of two AA meetings which she had told him she would go to.
A spokeswoman for Collins said he was “extremely disappointed” and he would be speaking to his lawyers.
The 11 remaining jurors found Collins, of Kew, south west London, guilty of harassing Ms Larke after being given a majority direction by the judge. One juror was discharged late yesterday.
Judge John Plumstead immediately sentenced Collins, who appeared in court wearing a shirt, black blazer and jeans, and did not show any emotion as he stood in the dock.
The judge told him: “This is humbling work for somebody who lives a prominent public life but the very humility that the manual work should induce will make you pause and think about what you have done.
“You’ve had a successful career and led up to this time a decent life. It would have been very much to your credit if you had had the courage to admit your violence and for that you will pay the price.”
The judge said: “It’s serious because any violence in any relationship when people should be able to rely on each other is a serious breach of trust.”
He said Collins must carry out the unpaid work within the next 18 months and also ordered him to pay £3,500 in prosecution costs.