Man choked wife but walks free as behaviour put down to '1970s' views

Man, 63, throttled his wife and bullied her for the way she looked and drove but walks from court after judge puts his behaviour down to ‘outdated’ 1970s-style attitude

  • Graham Walker choked and slapped his wife Deborah during row over directions
  • A court heard Judge Mary Loram describe Walker as ‘paranoid and jealous’
  • But the judge said that Walker’s behaviour was due to ‘outdated’ views he held
  • Defence said Walker accepted ‘culpability, distress and harm’ caused

A judge has told a husband who throttled his new wife and bullied her for the way she drove their car that his behaviour was due to 1970s-style ‘outdated’ views he held of women as he was spared jail today and walked free from court.

Graham Walker, 63, choked and slapped his traumatised spouse Deborah after the pair rowed about the best way back to their Manchester hotel room. 

The father-of-four screamed at Deborah, with whom he was celebrating his first wedding anniversary, grabbed her by the throat, and struck her. 

He had been previously controlling and coercive, banning her from seeing friends or relatives, and berated her over her weight and the way she walked.

Graham Walker (pictured) throttled his wife Deborah on the night of their first wedding anniversary, after bickering about the best way back to their Manchester hotel room 

Walker was not even unknown to have mocked the way Deborah drove their car.  

At Manchester Crown Court, however, a judge sentenced Walker, of Reddish, near Stockport, to an 18-month community order. 

Walker, who had pleaded guilty to engaging in controlling and coercive behaviour and common assault, was ordered to complete a Building Better Relationships programme after the court heard he held ‘old-fashioned’ views of women.

Judge Mary Loram, sentencing, told Walker that his behaviour was ‘borne not just out of outdated views but also out of insecurity’.

She ruled that the relationship, which has since ended, was ‘not typified by violence, apart from one assault’, but was ‘often unpleasant’ and ‘unhealthy’.  

The judge told the bully that he was ‘paranoid and jealous’ and had made Deborah’s ‘life a misery’ by undermining and isolating her from loved ones.

Judge Mary Loram, sentencing, told Walker that his behaviour was ‘borne not just out of outdated views but also out of insecurity’ (stock image)

She added: ‘This is a real chance for you to change. Don’t use your age to excuse your behaviour, you were a young man in the 1970s, come on!’ 

Mary Loram QC: The tough barrister who prosecuted brutal murderers and rapists 

Mary Loram prosecuted Clara Butler, who murdered her father during a row, in September 2019, claiming: ‘There is only one person in this room who can tell you exactly how and why Lance Martin died and it is clearly Clara Butler. This was retribution. This was summary execution.’

She branded troublesome teenager Connor Chapman a ‘nuisance’ for his ‘disregard for other people’ in July.

Ms Loram brought down Mark Sinclair last March after he murdered his partner Kylie Dembrey.  

She also prosecuted Mindaugas Kaminskas for bludgeoning his flatmate to death with a table leg in July and joked of keeping his body as a ‘trophy’, leading to a life jail sentence. 

Prosecutor Neil Usher said that Deborah, who was ‘trembling and shaking’ when police interviewed her after she reported the traumatic incident, regarded Walker as ‘old-fashioned and held a set of gender stereotypes of her’.

Deborah, who began a relationship with Walker in August 2015 and married him two years later, thought Walker ‘paranoid and jealous’, Mr Usher added. 

‘This type of behaviour’, the prosecution said, ‘deteriorated over time into a pattern of obsessive and controlling behaviour.’ 

He went on: ‘She [Deborah] described in parts agreeing to marry him as she believed this would make him feel more secure in the relationship.

‘But notwithstanding the marriage, his behaviour deteriorated further. He made it difficult to see her friends and family and she became isolated. She used to meet up with her mother for lunch. He would become enraged and hostile when she suggested meeting with her, so she stopped meeting with her own mother.

‘He was hyper-critical of her appearance, including her weight, the way she walked and even the way she held the steering wheel in the car. 

‘He would shout at her, throw things at her and on occasions he spat at her. His behaviour wore her down and she described she was constantly on a ‘knife edge’.   

‘She described him as being particularly controlling and paranoid about her work. He forbade her from working late or working over time. 

‘He constantly checked her movements and constantly accused her of being unfaithful, when he had no basis of doing so. 

‘There were regular splits in the relationship and reconciliations as he would, more than once, promise to change his behaviour. 

‘In October 2018 she mentioned a works night out. She was too nervous to ask him if she could go on it, but just mentioning it caused him to explode in temper. He spat at her, shouted at her and told her she was a “slag”, and told her to leave the house.

‘Three weeks later he came back to her and promised to change his views and she went back to him. Text messages between the two show the threat of the defendant being angry, abusive and controlling, and when she did respond, they were clearly attempts to calm him down and reassure him and encourage him to get help.

‘She made it clear repeatedly to get help with his temper, that she was committed to the marriage and she would support him if he seeks that help.’

In November 2018, Walker and Deborah entered a screaming match as they bickered about the best way back to a hotel they’d booked for their wedding anniversary. 

The court heard how furious Walker lost his temper with her, choking her and slapping her in the face before leaving Deborah in the hotel room.

‘Controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship’: what it means, and how perpetrators are punished

Walker was sentenced at Manchester Crown Court (pictured) today (stock image)

In September 2012, the British Government defined coercive behaviour as an ‘act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim’.

It also defined controlling behaviour as a ‘range of acts designed to make a person subordinate by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, and depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape’.

Section 76 of the Serious Crime Act 2015 created a new offence of controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship.

An offence is committed when a person repeatedly or continuously engages in behaviour towards another person, with whom they are personally connected, that is controlling or coercive, and will have a serious effect. 

Specific sentencing guidelines for the new offences are not available.  

Source: The Crown Prosecution Service  

Mr Usher said:  ‘In an exchange of messages in the aftermath, she referred him to the injury he had caused her. It was that incident which finally led her to break off the relationship and report him to the police. 

‘As she was giving her statement to the officer, the officer noticed she was trembling and shaking and she explained his conduct left her anxious and afraid.

‘During that interview she showed the officer the text messages supporting the account she was giving. After she had gone to the police, he continued to bombard her with text messages and emails and was eventually arrested and interviewed.

‘He denied assaulting his wife, commenting that she gave as good as she got. 

‘He did express regret over the messages and said the multiple messages did amount to a campaign of harassment against her.’

In mitigation, defence lawyer Nicholas Flanagan said that Walker had accepted the ‘culpability, distress and harm he caused to his partner’.

Walker ‘understands he has caused some real and genuine distress and concern’ for Deborah, and ‘recognises his behaviour is wrong’, the court heard.

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