'I still love you' says husband of battered wife who drove car into him

Daily Echo: John and Sally Stickland John and Sally Stickland

SHE is the doting wife who drove a car into her husband after years of domestic abuse.

The stress and emotional turmoil caused by a violent relationship triggered Sally Stickland to plough her silver Nissan Micra into John Stickland, her husband of 50 years, on a rural Hampshire road.

A judge said Mr Stickland was lucky not to have been killed and was left with serious injuries, including fractures to his cheekbone, back and neck, and a cut to his forehead.

But his 72-year-old wife avoided an immediate prison sentence after it was revealed that she may have been driven to carrying out the act as a result of “battered wife syndrome”.

Meanwhile, the couple claim that they still love each other – and plan to put the incident behind them.

Southampton Crown Court heard how Stickland, from West Common, Langley, suffers from post-traumatic stress syndrome as a result of the relationship – and a condition described as “battered wife syndrome” by Judge Gary Burrell.

She denied attempted murder at a previous court hearing in September this year, but pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of grievous bodily harm.

The public gallery was full of friends and family present to hear the details of the case unfold.

Simon Edwards, prosecuting, said passers-by found Mr Stickland motionless on a grass verge after the incident in West Common on May 18 this year.

He told the court his wife was driving on the eastbound side of the road before crossing to the other side, hitting her 73-yearold husband from behind.

Mr Edwards said: “It appears that his head was in contact with the windscreen, resulting in damage to the windscreen.

“Mr Stickland would have been unaware of the approach of the car behind him.”

The court heard how Stickland then drove home and when contacted by the emergency services after the incident was heard to say “Do I have to go with him?” when paramedics placed her husband into the ambulance.

Suspicions arose when neighbours saw Stickland’s car parked at a strange angle and with a damaged windscreen at her home.

Mr Edwards added: “At no stage did Mrs Stickland alert the police to say she had been involved in any sort of accident.

“Later that day she was arrested and the car was seized. The police noted the damage was consistent with it being in an accident with a pedestrian.”

Mr Stickland, who was present in court to support his wife, told the court that he has made a full recovery, and in a victim impact statement he said that he didn’t want to be kept away from his wife for any longer.

He said: “I love my wife and care for her very much.”

The court heard that a probation report compiled for Stickland, who has been living in the room of a care home, said that the risk of harm towards her husband would increase if she lives with him.

Records of Mr Stickland being violent towards his wife were also revealed in court.

Judge Burrell told the court that Mr Stickland kicked his wife in the head in 2004, and in 2011 he held her by the throat until she started to lose consciousness.

A restraining order was placed on him but it was breached, the court heard.

Alistair Wright, defending Stickland, said: “She’s positive about how he has conducted himself as a father to their three children.

“There has been incredible support for both parents for what has been a hellish process for all of them.”

Judge Burrell sentenced Stickland, of West Common Road, to 18 months in prison, suspended for two years. He also made her subject to a two-year residence order, in which she must live with her son, and a 24-month supervision order.

He said: “There is a very unusual background to this dreadful incident. You suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome and battered person’s syndrome.

“Although you and Mr Stickland have been married for 50 years and have three children, what seems clear is that for a period of the relationship it was marred by violence, mainly on his part.

“You previously sought help from domestic abuse services. As a result of that your emotional wellbeing suffered and so did your mental health.”

Mr Stickland embraced his emotional wife in the courtroom following the hearing, and the couple left the building together.

Mrs Stickland’s family say they are looking to the future after she was handed a suspended prison sentence for driving into her husband.

In a statement read outside court by solicitor Janet Brownlow, the family said: “The entire family have found the last few months very difficult and are still coming to terms with the traumatic circumstances surrounding the incident and everything that has followed.

“The family remain united. Mr and Mrs Stickland still love each other deeply and they understand the reasoning behind the judge’s sentencing.

“The family wish to start to put all of this behind them and look forward to the future.

“We would ask the press to respect the family’s privacy in a relationship which has become public in the way that it did.”

Stickland initially pleaded not guilty to attempted murder but admitted causing grievous bodily harm.

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