"Provocation" Cited in Bizarre UK Domestic Violence Case

A U.K. man has received only a suspended sentence after being sentenced for assaulting his wife because of her "provocation" of accusing him that he was the Devil.   52-year-old Anthony Berry reported that he "snapped" after his wife, a devout Catholic, had repeatedly claimed her husband was possessed and even went so far as to have him undergo an exorcism in France. 

Despite being married for 22 years, Claire Berry's accusations apparently began following her husband's admitting to an extramarital affair.  She then joined the ultra-conservative Society of Saint Pius X and insisted that his behaviour proved that he was being controlled by Satan.  Along with a blurred selfie that he had taken, she also insisted he attracted evil spirits to their Derbyshire home and that she had seen a small dragon fly across the house while he was there.

During one of these confrontations, she reported screamed: “You're not Tony!" to which he replied: 'No, I'm Satan, Prince of Darkness."   She later forced him to travel to France for the exorcism because "he had signed a pact with the devil" and later had her sister throw holy water on him while she thrust a crucifix in his face.   After hours of arguing, he then grabbed his wife and threw her across the room.  According to Prosecutor Jennier Fitzgerald, Berry then shouted: 'I’m going to kill you. I’m going to have your neck."   He admitted to having drunk up to eight pints and was likely intoxicated at the time. 

The second assault occurred a month later when he returned home at 1 am after an evening of drinking and playing snooker.   Claire Berry, who had also been drinking, got into an argument with him and, when he attempted to go to bed, followed him into the bedroom.  He then struck her repeatedly on the side of her head as well as grabbing and twisting her ankle.  She got away from him and spent the night in the garden under some blankets because she was too afraid to remain in the house with him. After calling her sister the following morning, Mrs. Berry called an ambulance and was taken to hospital for treatment.  She sustained a swelling to the side of her head as well as extensive bruising and damage to her spine. 

This left her in "excruciating pain" and forced her to walk on crutches for some time afterward.   When questioned by police, she said that her husband was "Satan" and he was charged with assault.  During the trial, Mrs. Berry testified about her belief that her husband was possessed and her previous attempts to rid him of his possession, including the exorcism.   The prosecutor told the court that Anthony Berry had received a previous caution for assaulting his wife in 2010 and that his behaviour was part of a longtime pattern of domestic abuse.   In response, Mr. Berry's defending attorney, John Bunting, argued that his actions were partially in self-defense given his wife's bizarre religious beliefs and the "extraordinary provocation" that had led to the assault.

Though Berry has been convicted of two separate assaults, he has been spared an immediate jail term.  Still, Chairman of the Bench Bob Graham told Berry:  'Both of these assaults were prolonged and quite brutal and I have to say nasty. Drink was also involved and you also issued threats to kill.  'But we have taken into account there was a degree of provocation.'  He has been sentenced to sixteen weeks in jail, suspended for two years, and ordered to pay court costs and a victim surcharge.

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