North Dorset woman has spent years bullying her husband, court says


A SPITEFUL wife who attacked her husband with her own cane after spending years intimidating him has avoided prison.

Dennis Dowding, a retired college law director, suffered continued mental abuse while living with his annoying wife Valerie.

The treatment he underwent led Mr Dowding to live in his own room at the couple’s marital home and said he felt ‘gas-lit’ by his wife.

In a particularly cruel act, Dowding, 76, tormented her college husband by deliberately destroying several of his beloved books.

Things came to a head when she slapped him in the face and hit him on the head with the walking stick in a row on their dog.

She had turned ‘livid and incandescent’ to him, letting the animal leave their home in the village of Milton Abbas in north Dorset.

Valerie Dowding arrives at Bournemouth Crown Court.Pic: Graham Hunt / BNPS

Mr Dowding, around 70, suffered a head injury and had to go to hospital for treatment after the incident in December 2019.

At this point, he was taking advice and his advisor advised him to report the assault to the police.

Dowding was convicted of assault following a trial at Bournemouth Crown Court.

She was also charged with engaging in controlling or coercive behavior, but the jury was “not sure whether she was guilty under the law” and she was acquitted of that charge.

Giving Dowding a suspended prison sentence, Judge Robert Pawson told him that she had spent years bullying her husband and resorted to malicious actions.

The court heard that the couple had been together for several decades before their relationship began to deteriorate about ten years ago.

In a victim impact statement read to court, Mr. Dowding said: “This assault marked the culmination of coercive behavior that has lasted for years.

Bournemouth Echo: Dennis Dowding.  Pic: ZacharyCulpin / BNPS Dennis Dowding. Pic: ZacharyCulpin / BNPS

“This was just one of the many ways she used to assert her personal opinions to others.

“Our daughter Diana was also deeply affected by her behavior.

“It will have a lasting effect on her too, but we are determined to leave it behind and have been very encouraged by the support of professionals and friends.”

During the trial, Dowding tried to claim that her husband had ‘arranged things for a favorable divorce’ and he had intimidated her.

But Judge Pawson said he did not accept her side of events and said her husband was clearly the victim.

He told Dowding: “Your victim in this case had been your husband for several decades.

Bournemouth Echo: Milton Abbas.  Image: BNPSMilton Abbas. Image: BNPS

“I have no doubt that your husband was at his wit’s end as a result of the continued bullying from you. He didn’t say anything other than the truth and certainly didn’t fabricate anything.

“He has acted, in my opinion, in a dignified and poignant manner throughout. I accept that he felt helpless and hopeless.

“Evidence of book scrapping is one example, things you knew meant a lot to him, a bookish man, former head of the law department at Bournemouth University.

“It was clear that you threw away more books than you were willing to accept, they were picked up and disposed of out of spite.

“He was forced to live in his room.

“The only reason the very sad breakdown of your marriage came to light was the assault.

“He had been taking advice for a while and it was the counselor who said if you assaulted him he should report it. He was reluctant to do so.

“During this assault, you lost your temper. You were totally unreasonable, you behaved like a tyrant.

“He didn’t do exactly what you wanted and you were livid and glowing because he let the dog out.”

“You slapped him in the face and then you used his cane to hit him on the head so that he had to go to the hospital.

“You say you feared for your safety, I don’t accept that for a moment. He did not advance on you, it is clear that he posed no threat.

“I have no hesitation in concluding that your husband did not commit domestic violence, nor did he intimidate you.

“The injury was serious, he suffered a head injury. He was particularly vulnerable – he used a stick, he’s old – and you use a weapon.

“Perhaps saddest of all, you left him knowing he had been hurt in anger to take care of your dogs.

“You were definitely much more concerned with your dogs than any other human being, you were overwhelmed in my opinion.

“You had stopped behaving rationally and lost touch with reality and how you should have behaved as a spouse.

Bournemouth Echo: Valerie Dowding leaving Bournemouth Crown Court.  Image: Graham Hunt / BNPSValerie Dowding leaving Bournemouth Crown Court. Image: Graham Hunt / BNPS

Rose Burns, defending Dowding, said her client was ‘extremely remorseful’.

She was given a 12 month suspended prison sentence for one year and ordered to pay £ 1,000 in costs.

She also received a five-year restraining order against her husband.


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