AN obsessive husband who beat his wife and treated her like ‘a slave’ has narrowly escaped jail.
Former Kendal fish and chip shop owner Robert Arundel abused his wife physically and psychologically and made her work long hours for no pay, magistrates in the town heard.
Arundel, of Underbarrow Road, was ordered to pay £9,000 compensation and was given a suspended sentence after he pleaded guilty to three counts of assault by beating.
Magistrates were told how Michele Arundel was:
* punched and verbally abused by her husband;
* made to feel like a ‘prisoner’
* deprived of a passport and holidays; and
* forced to work seven days a week unpaid.
Lisa Hine, prosecuting, said the 43-year-old, who used to run Frydays fish shop on New Road, tormented his wife in their remote dormer bungalow home by saying he would let his dog in to get her kittens.
She told South Lakeland Magistrates’ Court Arundel threw a screwdriver at his wife before slapping her.
CCTV footage of the attack was shown to the court, from a camera set up in the couple’s home – which Mrs Arundel copied onto her mobile phone as evidence.
In a victim statement read by Ms Hine, she claimed that while her husband the camera was for security, she believed it was to watch her.
The court heard that one night when Arundel got home from work, he punched her about four times on the right thigh while watching TV.
Ms Hine said on another occasion he ‘grabbed’ and bruised his wife’s finger after she raised it, thinking he was going to hit her.
However, Mrs Arundel took pictures on her phone after the assaults in August, September and October last year and kept a diary of the abuse on her iPad. But then she stopped as she did not think she would be believed.
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The court heard that Mrs Arundel, who approached police in December, now suffers from clinical depression.
She had married Arundel in 2007 and claimed that the verbal abuse started straight away.
In her victim statement, she said she believed she was being ‘monitored by CCTV cameras’ which made her feel like she was living in a prison.
She described how she worked seven days a week in the chip shop for which she was not paid and received no holidays.
She was not allowed to speak to male customers, was not allowed money or a bank account of her own and had to take him a receipt if she bought anything.
“I wasn’t allowed a passport which meant I didn’t exist, which was what he wanted,” said the statement.
“I had no means to escape.
“I was monitored by CCTV cameras, it was like living in a prison.”
Ms Hine said one night while the couple watched a film, Arundel turned to his wife and said: “I have a place to bury your body where no-one will find you”.
Mrs Arundel said that she left with a suitcase and moved to a refuge in Carlisle.
“I’ve had to rebuild my life while Robert’s life has not changed,” she said.
In mitigation, Rachel Broughton said Arundel accepted the three assaults to which he pleaded guilty.
“This was a long standing relationship, they spent 24/7 together but had a level of accumulating debt which caused stress and fatigue for Mr Arundel, who took it out on his wife,” she said.
Arundel was no longer working as he had sold the business and was claiming benefits.
Chairman of the Bench John Falvey said: “This was systematic, physical and psychological abuse. The only thing that has saved you from prison is your guilty plea.
“Over the last five years you have not paid any money to your wife for her work. In my view you have treated her like a slave.”
Arundel was ordered to pay £3,000 compensation to the victim for each offence, £250 court costs and an £80 victim surcharge.
He was also given a 120-day prison sentence suspended for 24 months, a restraining order and will be supervised by the Probation Service for 24 months.
He must also complete a Building Better Relationships programme and an alcohol awareness course.