A SPITEFUL wife who attacked her husband with his own walking stick after spending years bullying him has avoided jail.

Dennis Dowding, a retired university head of law, put up with continuous mental abuse while living with nagging wife Valerie.

The treatment he suffered led to Mr Dowding having to live in his own room at the couple's marital home and said he felt 'gaslighted' by his wife.

In one particularly cruel act, 76-year-old Dowding tormented her academic husband by deliberately destroying many of his beloved books.

Matters came to a head when she slapped him and hit him on the head with the walking stick in a row over their dog.

She had become 'livid and incandescent' for him letting the pet out of their home in the village of Milton Abbas in north Dorset.

Bournemouth Echo: Valerie Dowding arrives at Bournemouth Crown Court.Pic: Graham Hunt/BNPS Valerie Dowding arrives at Bournemouth Crown Court.Pic: Graham Hunt/BNPS 

Mr Dowding, who is aged in his 70s, suffered a wound to his head and had to go to hospital for treatment after the incident in December 2019.

At that stage he was undergoing counselling and was advised by his counsellor to report the assault to the police.

Dowding was convicted of assault following a trial at Bournemouth Crown Court.

She was also charged with engaging in controlling or coercive behaviour but the jury were 'unsure of her guilt within the law' and she was acquitted of that charge.

In handing Dowding a suspended prison sentence Judge Robert Pawson told her she had spent years bullying her husband and had resorted to spiteful actions.

The court heard the couple had been together for several decades before their relationship started to deteriorate about ten years ago.

In a victim impact statement read out in court, Mr Dowding said: "This assault marked the culmination of coercive behaviour which has gone on for years.

Bournemouth Echo: Dennis Dowding. Pic: ZacharyCulpin/BNPS Dennis Dowding. Pic: ZacharyCulpin/BNPS

"It was just one of several ways she used to enforce her personal views on others.

"Our daughter Diana has also been profoundly affected by her behaviour.

"It will have a lasting effect on her too but we are determined to put it behind us and have been much encouraged by the support of professionals and friends."

During the trial Dowding tried to claim her husband had 'set matters up to secure a favourable divorce' and he had bullied her.

But Judge Pawson said he did not accept her version of events and said her husband was clearly the victim.

He told Dowding: "Your victim in this case was your husband of several decades.

Bournemouth Echo: Milton Abbas. Picture: BNPSMilton Abbas. Picture: BNPS

"I have no doubt your husband was at his wit's end following ongoing bullying from you. He told nothing but the truth and certainly did not fabricate anything.

"He acted, in my judgement, in a dignified and poignant manner throughout. I accept he felt helpless and in despair.

"The evidence of the throwing away of books is one example, things you knew meant an enormous amount to him, a bookish man, the former head of Bournemouth University law department.

"It was clear that you threw away more books than you are prepared to accept, they were taken and disposed of out of spite.

"He was forced to live in his room.

"The only reason the very sad breakdown of your marriage came to light was the assault.

"He had been undergoing counselling for some time and it was the counsellor who said if you assaulted him he had to report it. He was reluctant to do it.

"During the course of that assault you lost your temper. You were quite unreasonable, you were behaving as a bully.

"He didn't do precisely what you wanted and you were livid and incandescent because he had let the dog out.

"You slapped him then used his walking stick to strike him to the head such that he had to go to hospital.

"You maintain that you feared for your safety, I do not accept that for a moment. He did not advance on you, it is clear he posed no threat.

"I have no hesitation in concluding your husband did not perpetrate domestic violence nor did he bully you.

"The injury was serious, he suffered a wound to the head. He was particularly vulnerable - he used a stick, he is elderly - and you use a weapon.

"Perhaps saddest of all, you left him knowing he was injured in a flight of temper to go deal with your dogs.

"You were undoubtedly far more concerned about your dogs than another human being, you were past caring in my judgement.

"You had stopped behaving rationally and lost touch with reality and how you should have been behaving as a spouse."

Bournemouth Echo: Valerie Dowding leaving Bournemouth Crown Court. Picture: Graham Hunt/BNPSValerie Dowding leaving Bournemouth Crown Court. Picture: Graham Hunt/BNPS

Rose Burns, defending Dowding, said her client was 'extremely remorseful.'

She was given a 12-month prison sentence, suspended for a year, and ordered to pay £1,000 towards costs.

She was also given a five-year restraining order against her husband.