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'She took vow of obedience to me' - man who subjected wife to decades of 'depraved' abuse

| Written by Shetland News

A MAN who admitted subjecting his wife to nearly three decades of “depraved and cruel” behaviour described as being at times “almost cult-like” has had his sentence deferred until October.

Procurator fiscal Duncan Mackenzie told Lerwick Sheriff Court on Wednesday that the 11 charges admitted by Robert Simmons, of Sandness, amounted to “one of the worst cases of domestic abuse” he has ever dealt with.

The 62 year old pled guilty to a string of charges which spanned between December 1988 and March this year.

The woman found the courage to first speak up about his behaviour in 2015 when she contacted the Women’s Aid organisation.

Speaking after the court case, Women's Aid said on behalf of its client that she "hopes her story of escape from domestic abuse will encourage other people who are subject to abuse to get help and take control of the situation."

Mackenzie said the couple had been in a relationship for over 33 years and had a number of children together, who were home-schooled and largely had no engagement with peers outside of the family.

He said Simmons was a regular church attender and “professed to be a committed Christian” – but he misused religion as a mechanism of control, the fiscal said.

Mackenzie said Simmons was the “authority in the family” who set the rules, but he added that those rules frequently changed.

He said he regulated how the woman spent her day – often setting timetables of 15-minute periods – and would make her carry notebooks.

They would include her “mistake book”, to-do lists and a “making progress” book. Mackenzie said police seized hundreds of them from their home.

Over the years, the woman lost her “sense of self-worth”, the fiscal said, and Simmons’ “obsessive mistrust” of outside agencies contributed to preventing her from asking for help.

One of the offences saw Simmons repeatedly strike the woman on the head on Christmas Eve of 1988 as a punishment because she used raw eggs as she baked a cake.

On various occasions between 1 January 1990 and 31 December 1999 she was made to stand in an outbuilding as she was doused in cold water from a hose for an “extended period of time”.

In the third charge, the woman fled from the house to be pursued by Simmons, who forced her into the boot of an estate car.

In another incident, Simmons compressed his wife’s throat to the point where she was struggling to breathe.

The fifth charge saw the man repeatedly present a metal pole at her after grabbing her by the hair, while the sixth saw him seize her by the hair and throw her to the ground.

One offence saw the woman be made to lie down on the floor before Simmons placed his foot on her head, giving her two black eyes.

In the eighth charge the complainer was pushed to the ground, causing nerve damage to her back, while another saw Simmons strike her in the head while in a car in May 2015 – leaving her with a bleeding nose and a black eye.

The tenth charge saw Simmons hit her in the back of the legs with a plastic pipe while she was washing dishes.

The 11th offence, which took place on various occasions between 1 January 2014 and 27 March 2017, saw the man place his mouth next to her ear and shout, swear and utter threats.

All but one of the charges took place at the couple’s home address.

Mackenzie said it was difficult to properly convey how hard it had been for the victim to complain the police about Simmons’ behaviour.

He said she was a “highly intelligent woman” who was “completely deprived of self-confidence or self-worth”. She had previously left him on two occasions but came back.

Simmons was detained and interviewed by police, and among his responses was that ‘I don’t think women are inferior to men" but “when we got married, she took a vow of obedience to me”.

Sheriff Philip Mann said that due to the nature of the case, social work reports would have to be prepared.

Defence agent Tommy Allan is due to speak in representation of his client’s position on 11 October when Simmons is sentenced.

Sheriff Mann warned Simmons that it is “difficult to contemplate any disposal other than a custodial sentence”.

He extended Simmons’ bail and continued Mackenzie’s motion for an indefinite non-harassment order to be imposed.

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