Churchgoing husband facing jail over campaign of domestic abuse

A man appeared in Lerwick Sheriff Court over campaign of domestic abuse. Picture: ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP/Getty Images
A man appeared in Lerwick Sheriff Court over campaign of domestic abuse. Picture: ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP/Getty Images
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A controlling husband who drew up daily timetables of tasks for his wife, divided into 15-minutes slots, and punished her if she failed to follow it, is facing jail.

Robert Simmons, 62, a father-of-six and a regular church-goer, subjected Karen Simmons to “one of the very worst cases of domestic abuse” procurator fiscal Duncan MacKenzie told Lerwick Sheriff Court in Shetland.

He created an “almost cult-like” atmosphere, in which his wife was forced to carry notebooks, including a “mistake book”, where she was forced to maintain a record of all the times she failed to please Simmons.

In another book she kept a “record of observations the accused would make about random aspects of life”. Police seized hundreds of these notebooks from their home, the fiscal said.

The cumulative effect of his campaign of abuse “completely eroded the complainer’s sense of self-worth”, Mr MacKenzie said.

He also subjected her to catalogue of physical abuse, which included standing her in an outbuilding while he hosed her with cold water, forcing her into the boot of a car after she fled the house, and standing on her head.

Simmons, of Sandness, Shetland, admitted 11 charges spanning from 1988 until March of this year, and was told to expect a stint in jail.

The court heard that the “regular church attendee” created an “almost cult-like” atmosphere in the family home, using religion as a justification for his “coercive and controlling” behaviour.

“She took a vow of obedience to me” reads one chilling statement Simmons made in police interviews, read out in court.

Providing the sheriff with a lengthy narrative Mr MacKenzie told the court that Simmons had been in a relationship with his wife for 33 years, married for 30 of those.

During that time the couple had six children, all home-schooled. This meant that Karen was “deprived of any interaction with others one would have experienced with a school environment”.

Sheriff Philip Mann deferred sentencing for background reports, but warned Simmons to expect a jail sentence.

“It’s difficult to contemplate how I would reasonably look at alternatives to a custodial sentence”, Sheriff Mann told Simmons.

Simmons will receive legal representation next month.