March 4, 2024

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Eleven domestic violence cases that shocked Devon’s courts in 2022

The scale of domestic abuse in the UK is huge. Every year police receive more than one million phone calls reporting violence by a partner, an ex or family member.

Many of these are never recorded as actual crimes but a sizable number are and the most serious end up in crown court. The legal definition of domestic abuse in the United Kingdom comes from the Domestic Abuse Act 2021.

Behaviour is abusive if it involves ‘physical or sexual abuse; violent or threatening behaviour; controlling or coercive behaviour; economic abuse; or, psychological, emotional or other abuse’. It must occur between two people who are over the age of 16 and personally connected to each other.

Read more: Dartmouth thug who kicked pregnant woman so hard she lost her unborn daughter jailed

The majority of victims are women and the majority of suspects are men. One in three women will be affected by domestic abuse in their lifetime. Violence by woman against men is also more common than many think.

Here DevonLive looks at recent cases involving violence against a partner or family member. All have been sentenced in the past 12 months. Many share common themes of verbal abuse, jealousy, text message threats, belittling, and outright physical violence.



Jay Hotson
Jay Hotson

An Axminster man assaulted his girlfriend and then took police on a high-speed car chase through rural lanes. Jay Hotson was driving so fast that the wheels of the Ford Fiesta left the ground as he sped over bumps.

He was arrested a few days later at his caravan. It turned out he had stolen the car after a party a month earlier.

Hotson, who has a history of driving crime, has been jailed for 17 months at Taunton Crown Court. He pleaded guilty to theft of a car; assault by beating; dangerous driving; and driving whilst disqualified.



Christopher Sylvester has been jailed for domestic violence
Christopher Sylvester has been jailed for domestic violence

A violent boyfriend has been jailed for savagely beating his partner because he could not find his tobacco. Drunken Christopher Sylvester launched the brutal assault after buying her flowers and a card for Valentine’s Day.

He punched and kicked the victim unconscious, leaving her covered in blood with a suspected broken nose and two missing teeth. He then rampaged through the house smashing her phone, cups and glasses and the TV. Sylvester, of Malborough Road, Ilfracombe, has a history of violence and was jailed for two years at Exeter Crown Court for causing actual bodily harm and criminal damage.

The judge said: “This was an extremely bad an profoundly unpleasant episode of sustained violence of a domestic nature perpetrated against somebody you were in a domestic relationship with for a few weeks, although you had known her for a lot longer. She was beaten all over her body and face.”



Darren Ricketts has been jailed for stabbing his ex partner in Exeter
Darren Ricketts has been jailed for stabbing his ex partner in Exeter

A jilted man armed himself with a knife and stabbed his terrified former partner during a brutal attack at her home in Exeter.

Darren Ricketts, 47, could not accept the end of his 24-year relationship and turned his feelings of rejection into anger against the mother of his children.

He lured her into the lounge of the house in Burnthouse Lane before punching her 20 to 30 times then stabbing her in the back three times with a large knife he had brought to the house as part of his plan.

She managed to get away with the help of her family and Ricketts said: “I told you I couldn’t do this without her. I told you this would happen.”



Tanya Hoskin has been jailed for manslaughter for killing her partner in Exmouth
Tanya Hoskin has been jailed for manslaughter for killing her partner in Exmouth

A West Country woman with a personality disorder has been jailed for 10 years for stabbing to death her partner in a ‘sudden and unexpected’ assault over Christmas.

Tanya Hoskin, 52, plunged a kitchen knife into Nigel Johnston while the pair were shielding together on December 27, 2020, reports Devon Live.

She snapped as a result of a build-up of frustration at their life together and after the couple had spent the day drinking together at their home in Exmouth.

Mr Johnston, 54, collapsed in the kitchen and died of a single deep wound despite the best efforts of paramedics to save his life.




A warrant has been issued for the arrest of a dope-smoking domestic bully found guilty of assault and controlling behaviour. Keegan Symes, 25, subjected his on-off partner to a series of threats and violence at her home in Tiverton. He exploited her vulnerability when she was at a low point in her life, hounded her for money and refused to leave her flat.

Symes would fly into a rage if he could not get money to buy cannabis or his Xbox was not working, Exeter Crown Court was told. He was arrested after a violent assault during which he put his hand around her mouth and nose to the point where she was struggling to breathe.

He denied the offences but was not present at his trial. The jury convicted him in his absence and he will be sentenced once police find and bring him to court.



Thomas Williams has been jailed for violence in Totnes
Thomas Williams has been jailed for violence in Totnes

This man was jailed for brutally attacking his 75-year-old mum and her partner during a rampage at their home in Totnes. Thomas Williams, 37, of Lower Collarpark, has a history of violence and was described as dangerous by a judge at Exeter Crown Court.

His mother suffered three broken ribs in the attack.

Judge David Evans said the maximum sentence he could impose for the two assaults causing actual bodily harm was one year and eight months.



Joseph Taylor has been jailed for assaulting his partner in Torquay
Joseph Taylor has been jailed for assaulting his partner in Torquay

A jealous thug kicked and punched his girlfriend during a brutal drunken assault in the centre of Torquay. Joseph Taylor, 23, was caught on CCTV leaping at the woman with a kick as she sat on a bench in Union Street.

He then repeatedly punched her while she lay on the ground and stamped on her head.

The defendant has a history of violence, including against an ex partner, and was subject to a suspended sentence at the time of the offence. Exeter Crown Court was told he suffered from mental health problems and was a prospect for rehabilitation.

But a judge said the violence was too serious for anything other than immediate prison and jailed Taylor for a year.



Generic picture to illustrate domestic violence, posed by models.

A woman beaten up by her rampaging boyfriend during a vicious attack says she felt like she was in a scene from a horror movie. Brandon Reid, 23, lost control and flew into a jealous rage at the house he shared with his mum in Torquay.

During a 20-minute assault he acted ‘like a wild animal – pushing his partner down the stairs, hitting her head on the floor and repeatedly punching her as she tried to escape.

When his own mother intervened he punched her too and grabbed her hair with such force that police had difficulty prising his hands off.



Roy Gornall has been jailed for intimidating a woman in Exeter
Roy Gornall has been jailed for intimidating a woman in Exeter

A thug has been jailed after a terrified woman was forced to wade into the River Exe to escape his threats.

Roy Gornall repeatedly swore and intimidated the woman – even following her into a private garden after she scrambled soaking wet up the banks of the river and onto dry land.

She claimed he threatened to kill her with a paving slab he picked up during the rampage. Gornall, a 37-year-old chef at Oggy Oggy pasties, was cleared of assault by a jury at Exeter Crown Court. But after deliberating for over five hours they found him guilty of intimidating a witness.

A furious boyfriend left his partner with serious life-changing wounds after grabbing her during a drunken argument. Chay Saunders, 31, lost his temper after a gin session at his girlfriend’s house in Teignmouth.

He wanted to carry on the evening by going out with his friend but his partner objected and the pair had a furious row. It ended with him pulling her arm and causing her to fall against a brick surround in the living room. She needed more than 30 stitches to repair life-changing injuries to her face. The judge at Exeter Crown Court spared Saunders jail after hearing he did not intentionally inflict the injuries and was sorry.

Saunders, who has a number of previous convictions for less serious violence, admitted unlawful wounding. He was jailed for eight months, suspended for two years. He must do 30 rehabilitation days and abstain from alcohol for 90 days.




A man broke a woman’s jaw with a single punch after she spurned his advances. Ashley Watson, 33, was upset the woman he met online three weeks before told him she did not want a relationship.

While walking together in Kingsteignton she slapped him twice during an argument. Watson responded by insulting her and launching an uppercut which fractured her jaw in two places.

A witness described seeing the woman being knocked off her feet by the heavy blow.

The defendant, who has a history of domestic violence, was given a suspended sentence at Exeter Crown Court and told to attend a Building Better Relationships programme to address his anger issues.