Monday, 20 January 2020
A ROYAL Air Force pilot who strangled his partner until she was unconscious has been given a community order.
Timothy Barry, a flight lieutenant, attacked Squadron Leader Sarah Seddon, 40, in a bedroom at her home in Mill View, Cuxham.
The 31-year-old was found not guilty of attempted murder and causing grievous bodily harm with intent after a five-day trial last month.
But he admitted an alternative charge of assault occasioning actual bodily harm and was sentenced at Oxford Crown Court on Thursday last week.
As part of his 18-month community order, he must complete a 25-day rehabilitation activity requirement and 30 days of a building better relationships programme.
Sentencing him, Judge Ian Pringle said he was satisfied that Barry was genuinely remorseful about what he had done to Ms Seddon, who is still his partner.
The incident happened in the early hours of January 14 last year after the pair had been drinking heavily.
The court heard how the couple, who were both based at RAF Benson, had arranged a night out in Marlow to celebrate Ms Seddon’s return from deployment in Afghanistan. An argument they had in a taxi on their way home continued when Ms Seddon told her boyfriend she was leaving him.
Barry told the jury at his trial that they were both “really drunk” after consuming three bottles of champagne and a bottle of red wine between them and a double gin and tonic and an espresso martini each during the afternoon and evening.
He said he didn’t know why he had put his hands around his girlfriend’s neck or how they ended up there and couldn’t say what was going through his mind at the time.
When she slipped out of consciousness he called the police, thinking he had killed her.
Barry said: “I wanted to get people there as quickly as possible to help her and get everything I could to make sure she was all right.”
He also threatened to kill himself. He cut both his forearms with a razor blade before the emergency services arrived but suffered only “superficial lacerations”.
Ms Seddon regained consciousness within 15 minutes of the paramedics arriving and was taken to hospital.
Lisa Wilding, for Barry, said there had been an “extreme amount of alcohol” consumed by both of them but said there was no history of violence between them.
She said: “He has shown very significant contrition and remorse for the events of that night.
“This is a wholly unusual case. She has her own mind and her own voice and there is no suggestion that any incident of this type had ever occurred before.
“Extreme intoxication can lead to a loss of consciousness. I don’t suggest that alcohol alone was responsible for what transpired with Ms Seddon.
“This could not have been more spontaneous and instantaneous. He was clearly very emotionally disturbed at the time.”
Ms Wilding added that Barry was a highly skilled pilot and was regarded as a man of “honesty and integrity” by his colleagues.
Flt Lt Andrew Keeley told the judge that an immediate or suspended prison sentence could be harmful to Barry’s career.
Judge Pringle said: “This was a serious and potentially fatal attack. While the injuries are minor, it is the potential of the attack that concerns me.
“You said you were going to kill yourself, or do harm to yourself, expecting her to come along out of sympathy. It was the act of a child and not a grown adult. What you did was put your hands around her neck, one of the most vulnerable parts of the human body. You were clearly very distressed when she seemed not to be breathing, although she was.”
However, the judge added: “I am totally satisfied that you are totally and genuinely remorseful about what happened and because of what you did to the woman that you love.
“You have demonstrated that you have taken steps to ensure that this type of behaviour never arises again. You were clearly under considerable stress at the time and underwent considerable counselling before returning to the RAF.”
He said Barry had spent years risking his life for his country and he could not think of a better set of endorsements than the ones put forward during his trial.
Flt Lt Barry was deployed in Afghanistan four times. During his 2016 tour, his squadron leader was Ms Seddon, who was married at the time. When they started to have feelings for one another, he decided to move squadrons so that he was no longer in her chain of command.
Since the attack, the couple have undertaken counselling sessions over the phone.
Barry is back at work but has been grounded. The RAF said it would consider the court’s findings and take any “appropriate action”.
30 December 2019
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