Criticism of judge's comments on vulnerability in domestic abuse case

By Lenore Rice

A judge has commented that a woman who was made to swallow bleach and pills and beaten with a cricket bat by her husband was not vulnerable, because she was "an intelligent woman with a network of friends" and a degree.

The comments has drawn widespread criticism form domestic abuse charities, solicitors and the public. Mustafa Bashir, aged 34, admitting attacking his then wife, Fakhara Karim, with a cricket bat. The couple were married in 2013 but separated 2 years later. The court was told that Mr Bashir had taken his wife into their bathroom, had made her drink bleach "so she would kill herself". She was unable to swallow it and spat it out. Mr Bashir then gave her tablets and ordered her to take them, which she did, but she was again unable to swallow them. In a separate argument Mr Bashir was said to have strangled his wife and hit her with a cricket bat, boasting that he could kill her with it if he hit her with his "full power".

The Manchester Crown Court handed down an 18-month suspended sentence, and Judge Mansell said that he did not consider that Ms Karim was trapped or isolated. He added:

"She is plainly an intelligent woman with a network of friends and did go on to graduate university with a 2:1 and a masters - although this has had an ongoing effect on her.

"She has difficult trusting people now, especially men."

Mr Bashir was also ordered to attend a "building better relationships" workshop, was banned from contacting his ex-wife indefinitely, and he must pay legal costs of £1,000.

Sandra Horley, chief executive of the charity Refuge, said that the judge's comments "that he was not convinced of the victim's 'vulnerability' - show a shocking ignorance around the impact of domestic violence on women." She described domestic violence is a "devastating crime that has severe and long-lasting impacts", and added that a woman's job, education or social circle "makes no difference".

If you require legal advice from a solicitor specialising in domestic abuse in Northern Ireland, contact Wilson Nesbitt solicitors in Belfast or Bangor by clicking here.

Click here to read an update on this case as Crown Court exercised their right to review the original sentence.