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Man sentenced for ‘controlling behaviour’

| Written by Shetland News

A MAN from Lerwick who embarked on a "disturbing course of conduct" over a four-month period with his ex-girlfriend which revolved around his "mistrust and paranoia" has narrowly avoided being sent to prison.

Procurator fiscal Duncan Mackenzie told Lerwick Sheriff Court on Wednesday that there was "no basis" for Liam McLaren's controlling behaviour.

The court heard that the 22 year old looked through the woman's personal messages, told her not to wear "nice clothes" and would often be found loitering around her home.

McLaren of South Lochside, previously admitted subjecting the woman to a course of conduct causing her fear or alarm between 24 April and 3 September.

Sheriff Philip Mann placed him on a community payback order which included a stint on the Respect domestic violence programme because he felt prison was not the only sentencing option available to him.

Among the actions admitted by McLaren included shouting and swearing at the woman, repeatedly phoning and texting her, following her, sleeping in her garage without her permission, monitoring her phone and movements and loitering outside the bathroom when she was in it.

He also attempted to set fire to a bag of clothing on the doorstep of her home, climbing up a ladder to see into her bedroom and smashing her bedroom window.

McLaren further admitted attending the woman's sister's house in the early hours of the morning and making threatening remarks. All of the charges are said to have been aggravated by involving abuse of his partner or ex partner.

The offences took place at various locations in Lerwick and in East Voe, Scalloway.

Mackenzie said the pair started going out earlier in the year and added that McLaren initially blamed his behaviour on "excessive drinking at the weekends".

He said the woman had previously tried to leave the relationship but his control made it difficult for her.

On one occasion in May she packed up some of his items in black bags but she found him trying to set fire to them on her doorstep.

When she wanted time alone McLaren would be seen loitering around her home, while on one occasion she found him sleeping in her garage.

Mackenzie said that when she was in the bathroom he would accuse her of texting other men, while he would also look through her messages.

He also told her not to wear "make-up or nice clothes" because she was in a relationship.

One day it "all became too much for her" and she tried to end things with McLaren, but he ended up following her to a fashion show in Lerwick and peered through the windows at Tesco when she was shopping.

The woman contacted the police after she spent the night with family in Lerwick but was still tracked by McLaren, who later "bombarded her with filthy messages".

Defence agent Tommy Allan said the woman had contacted him and the procurator fiscal to say that while there was no suggestion she wants reconciliation, she is "no longer scared" of McLaren and wouldn't want to see a non-harassment order imposed on him as she would "like him to be able to move without restriction".

The solicitor said McLaren's conduct was "clearly controlling behaviour" - something which his client now accepts - and added that he had been "almost fixated and desperate...and devastated" when their relationship ended.

He said McLaren is ready to take help from the local mental health team and is prepared to "take a tumble to himself".

Sheriff Philip Mann told McLaren that his behaviour was not acceptable.

"Domestic abuse of any kind and stalking of this kind is very serious and cannot be tolerated," he said. "Courts have to take a very dim view of behaviour of this nature."

The sheriff said McLaren's behaviour "amply merited" imprisonment but he reiterated that law stated that he could only jail someone who hasn't been in custody before if it's the only "appropriate" sentencing available.

He said the attitude of the complainer - displayed by her request to not impose a non-harassment order - and the fact that McLaren would not be able to take the Respect domestic violence programme in jail meant that he was satisfied prison wasn't the only option.

As a direct alternative to custody, Sheriff Mann gave McLaren 180 hours of unpaid work to complete and placed him under supervision for two years with a requirement to go on the Respect programme.

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