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Female prison reform boss is jailed for ‘worst case of coercive behaviour’ judge had ever seen

Female prison reform boss is jailed for ‘worst case of coercive behaviour’ judge had ever seen: Senior manager subjected husband to 15 years of daily wine-fuelled beatings, verbal humiliation and even made him clean up her faeces

  • Sheree Spencer, 45, was jailed for abusing her husband Richard Spencer 
  • She gave him daily beatings that left him cowering in the foetal position
  • Hull Crown Court heard that Spencer was a mother of three young children 

A prison reform boss is herself behind bars tonight after subjecting her husband to 15 years of physical attacks and verbal humiliation which has left him with mental scars ‘that will last a lifetime’.

Sheree Spencer, 45, was jailed for four years for making husband Richard’s life a living hell with daily beatings and verbal attacks that left him cowering on the floor in the foetal position.

On one occasion she defecated on the floor and forced him to clean it up, and on another she beat him with a wine bottle so hard it permanently disfigured his ear.


In furious wine-fuelled tirades she would call him ‘fat boy,’ ‘a pussy’ and ‘dumb dumb’ and caused bruises and scratches that he would need to cover with make-up before going outside.

For years he secretly recorded video and audio of his wife’s attacks on him and when police became involved he handed over 43 images of his bruised face, taken on different dates following savage assaults he had suffered.


Mr Spencer would email them to himself and delete them from his phone so his wife didn’t realise he was recording her violent assaults.

Hull Crown Court heard that Spencer was a mother of three young children and that many of the attacks on her husband had occured in the family home.

It was described as ‘a great irony’ that Spencer had done so much work aimed at investigating the effect of custodial sentences on the family.

She worked at the highest levels for HM Prison and Probation Service and bragged to friends that she had the ear of former Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Spencer, of upmarket Bubwith, East Yorkshire, was a project manager in the department’s directorate of strategy and performance.

A former friend said: ‘She would brag about being only two down from the Prime Minister in her field and had meetings with Boris Johnson, who she spoke of as though he were a friend.

‘She was bragging about her high flying career while subjecting her poor husband, a lovely man, to daily abuse, degradation and humiliation.’


Within months of becoming a couple in 2000, Richard Spencer endured her violent rages, which happened whether she was drunk or sober.

Mr Spencer told the court that although he was bigger and physically stronger than his petit wife, he did not fight back when she began to attack him.

He said he became almost immune to the physical abuse she meted out, even though she would cause him immense pain by sinking her teeth into him.

But he said the mental scars left by 16 years of her hate-filled attacks were what would leave the most lasting effect.

Spencer’s reign of domestic terror finally ended in June 2021 when the police were called to their family home by a concerned welfare worker.

Her arrest that day on suspicion of assaulting her husband opened a door into the hell he had kept private for his entire married life.

He stood before the court today and at one point struggled to choke back tears as he described his nightmare marriage in a personal statement.

Mr Spencer said: ‘From September 2000 to June 2021 Sheree subjected me to hundreds of physically, mentally, and emotionally abusive episodes perpetrated in a pattern of behaviour going back over 20 years, almost half my life.


‘I have become resigned to the fact that I will never fully recover from her abuse and that it will have a permanent damaging impact on mine and my family’s life.

‘Sheree’s abuse towards me evolved and escalated over time, she used repeated acts of physical assault, threats, verbal abuse, and humiliation to punish and exercise control over me.

‘The abuse was hidden from the outside world, including friends and family. Sheree manipulated me into believing that I was a responsible and willing participant in the abuse. She remorselessly proclaimed that I deserved to be punished, and that it was a justifiable consequence of me disappointing her in some way.

‘Little by little, I lost my independence and willpower and just accepted that was how my life was going to be. I complied with Sheree’s demands, and she controlled most aspects of my everyday life, including things like what activities I could participate in and when, which room I could sleep in, and even which toilet I could use.

‘Gradually I became isolated from family and friends and was left deep in debt causing me to feel trapped.’

Mr Spencer said that restraining his wife was his only hope of avoiding serious injury – but the act of holding her still provoked her wrath.

He told the court: ‘I became increasingly hardened to the physical attacks that were usually inflicted when Sheree had been drinking alcohol, such as the kicking and the punching, although some things were particularly painful such as biting and nipping.

‘I’m physically bigger and stronger than Sheree so I could restrain her if the pain became unbearable; however, I could only hold her for so long, and when the time came to let go, she would be even angrier and the injuries she would inflict afterwards were always worse.


‘After a while, I learnt to cover my face with my hands and curl up into a foetal position to try and avoid sustaining any visible facial injuries, so that I could still take the children to school and nursery.’

The worst of the assaults on him happened in April 2021 when his wife attacked him with an empty wine bottle.

The court heard that Spencer beat him with the bottle all over his head and body, but caused a serious injury to his ear, which swelled dramatically.

Richard said he needed hospital treatment, which his wife responded to by calling him a ‘pussy.’ She looked up YouTube videos on how to drain blood from the ear by puncturing it with a knife.

When Richard refused she told him that if he used his name at the hospital she would stop him coming back into the family home.

She ordered him to use her brother’s name and he did as he was told as he was booked into A and E, fearing the reprisals that would happen if he did not.

Richard Pratt, KC, said there was little he could say to mitigate against Spencer’s appalling treatment of her husband and described her professional accomplishments as ‘ironic.’

He said it was ‘almost impossible to recognise’ her professional person as the same woman who subjected her husband to the ‘shocking and distressing’ attacks.

Mr Pratt said: ‘It is perhaps particularly ironic that one of the projects she had been working on has been dealing with the effects of custodial sentences on the family.

‘That is an irony but what is important and significant is that she continued to work and has an excellent work reputation and record.’

He said that Spencer had suffered bouts of depression and anxiety throughout her life which she had ‘wrongly’ sought to self medicate by drinking alcohol.

The court was told that on some days she would drink as much as three bottles of wine.

Judge Kate Rayfield told Spencer: ‘This is the worst case of controlling and coercive behaviour I have seen.’

She described how she had sat through two hours of video and audio recordings of Spencer hurling hateful abuse at her husband.

Judge Rayfield said: ‘In one of these recordings it is clear you had defecated on the floor. Your husband can be heard scrubbing while you are heard to say to him: ‘I made you do that, all I asked you to do was go to the shop.

‘I watched as you spat in his face time and time again and called him ‘bitch, tiny c*** and skank and insulted members of his family.

‘You whispered in his face in the most sinister way, shouted demands and instructions at him – ‘Get the f***ing chicken on, get to the f***ing shop’ and warning him ‘you will learn.’

The judge added: ‘By your actions you intended to humiliate or degrade Richard and you have caused him significant psychological harm.

‘Richard Spencer was a vulnerable victim, isolated from his family and trapped financially.’

Spencer admitted coercive and controlling behaviour and three counts of assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

The charges could only cover a five year period dating from the time the law on controlling and coercive behaviour was passed in late 2015.

But Judge Rayfield said she took account of her persistent behaviour towards her husband because it cast light on his vulnerability as her victim.

Spencer could be heard sobbing as she was led away to the cells to begin her four year term.

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