Violent wife-beater avoids longer sentence after Crown decision


A Fife man has been jailed for 13 months for a catalogue of domestic violence against his wife.

One of the attacks took place outside the main door of the Victoria Hospital where the woman was repeatedly kicked.

The sheriff said Robert McNeil’s prison term would have been much longer but he was restricted in his sentencing by a Crown decision to downgrade the seriousness of the case.

He described that decision as “quite remarkable” and said he suspected it was a result of the backlog of cases caused by the covid restrictions.

McNeil battered his wife in her home in Cowdenbeath, punching her and pulling clumps of hair from her head.

He later attacked and kicked her in a car outside the main door of the Victoria Hospital.

McNeil, 42, of Broad Street, Cowdenbeath, appeared from custody at Dunfermline Sheriff Court and admitted a string of charges.

On 29th March at Thistle Street, Cowdenbeath, he assaulted his wife by seizing her by the throat, repeatedly punched her on the head and body, repeatedly seized her by the hair, pulling sections of hair out of her head, pulled her to the ground, repeatedly seized her by the body, threw her on to a sofa, prevented her from leaving the room and pinned her down by sitting on top of her, all to her injury.

On the same day, he made offensive remarks to his wife, shouted, swore, threatened to kill her, threatened to assault another woman, then pregnant, if she contacted the police for assistance and seized a phone from her in an attempt to stop her summoning help.

He then breached a bail condition imposed on 30th March not to contact his wife when on 12th and 13th April was in her house at Thistle Street.

On 28th October at a public car park at Victoria Hospital, Kirkcaldy, he assaulted his wife by seizing her by the hair, pushed her on the body and repeatedly kicked her.

He also resisted police officers attempting to arrest him.

Depute fiscal Jill Currie said the couple had been married for 11 years but had different addresses at the time. The first incident occurred at the woman’s home.

They had gone to bed at 11pm but at around 2am an argument began. He grabbed her by the throat, pulled chunks of hair from her head and said, “I’m going to murder you”.

She ran into the living room but he grabbed her again and started punching her.

There was another woman present in the house. She was pregnant and McNeil told her, “If you phone the police, I’ll kick the bairn out of you.”

In the later incident, his wife had been feeling unwell and he had driven her to hospital at around 9pm.

At the drop-off point outside the hospital’s main door an argument started between them.

This was heard by hospital security staff who intervened after seeing the woman “looking frightened”, the depute continued.

McNeil closed the car doors and reversed. A security officer asked him to stop.

McNeil did so but grabbed his wife, trying to throw her out of the car and when he could not manage this, he began to kick her.

The Crown decided to reduce the matter from solemn to summary procedure, cutting the length of jail term which could be imposed.

Sheriff Charles Macnair said, “I find it quite remarkable that anyone could have taken such a decision. I suspect part of the reason was the present backlog of solemn matters.”

McNeill admitted five separate offences and Sheriff Macnair said that, in his opinion, for the first one alone the appropriate sentence would have been three years in jail.

However, that was not open to him because of the Crown’s decision.

He imposed a total jail term of 13 months and a two-year non-harassment order.


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