A MAN who subjected his wife to nearly three decades of “depraved and cruel” behaviour described as being at times “almost cult-like” has been sent to prison for over two and half years.
Sheriff Philip Mann told Lerwick Sheriff Court on Wednesday that 62 year old Robert Simmons embarked on a “sustained and wicked campaign of abuse” against his wife.
The sheriff sentenced Simmons to a total of 32 months in custody, which was reduced from four years due to his early plea, and gave him an indefinite non-harassment order relating to his wife.
Defence agent Tommy Allan said Simmons acknowledged that he “did wrong” and “sees things differently now”.
His conviction comes just two years after campaigners vowed to “lift the lid” on too often ignored domestic abuse in Scotland‘s northern islands.
Women’s Aid in both Orkney and Shetland have seen caseloads of gender-based violence leap in recent years in response to open-ness. For years victims found it hard to report serious crimes, including rape, not least because it was hard to remain anonymous in close-knit islands communities.
Simmons’ victim found the courage to first speak up about Simmons’ behaviour in 2015 when she contacted the the local Women’s Aid branch.
Simmons had admitted 11 charges which spanned between December 1988 and March this year.
Simmons told police during an interview that ‘I don’t think women are inferior to men” but “when we got married, she took a vow of obedience to me”.
The victim has declined to speak about her experiences, but Shetland Women’s Aid released a statement saying that sentencing is only “part of a survivor’s journey to recovery”.
Procurator fiscal Duncan Mackenzie previously told the court that the couple had been in a relationship for over 33 years – married for 30 – and had a number of children together, who had been home-schooled.
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 had told the court that the “coercive and controlling” 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 previously 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 1990 and 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”. There were 10 other charges of violence or threatening behaviour.
All but one of the charges took place at the couple’s home address.
Mr Mackenzie said it was difficult to properly convey how hard it had been for the victim to report Simmons’ behaviour to the police.
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.
Defence agent Tommy Allan said his client knew he had done wrong. He said that, in the “strictest sense, there can be no mitigation of the offences”.
“I do not blame her, I did wrong,” Mr Allan quoted his client saying. “At no time did I think she deserved this. “I see things differently now.”
Speaking following the sentencing, Anne Marie Hicks, National Procurator Fiscal for Domestic Abuse said:
“Robert Simmons’ violent and controlling course of conduct, which endured over a period of decades, has caused his victim untold distress.
“I would like to commend the victim for having the courage to come forward and for her bravery in helping bring Simmons to justice.”