Collins guilty of 'campaign of abuse' - but escapes jail

TV presenter’s punishment of 18 months' community service dismissed as 'derisory'

Once, the genial shaggy-haired television personality Justin Lee Collins was the lovable rogue of Britain's screens with a long career ahead of him.

But last night broadcasters distanced themselves from the 38-year-old presenter after he was found guilty of harassing his former partner during a campaign of sustained emotional and domestic abuse.

However, his sentence – 140 hours of unpaid work as part of an 18-month community order, as well as paying the £3,500 prosecution costs – was described as "derisory" by domestic violence campaigners.

A jury at St Albans Crown Court heard that he made death threats against Anna Larke, grabbed her hair, slapped her, made sexually derogatory comments about her and deprived her of sleep during their seven-month relationship.

The court was told that Collins, who came to prominence as a host on Channel 4's The Friday Night Project, made Ms Larke, 38, a public relations worker, write down every sexual encounter she had ever had and stopped her using social-networking sites.

Collins made the recovering alcoholic sleep facing him and throw away DVDs because they featured actors she found attractive, the court heard. Ms Larke also claimed Collins attacked her in a hotel room in Miami in March last year, but she had not shown her doctor her bruises because she did not want to get him into trouble.

Jurors were played a secret recording she made of him verbally abusing her, using racist language, during a dispute. Collins said the recording showed him at his worst, but denied all her other claims.

Collins, famed for his cheeky persona and Bristolian accent, said he had only slapped Ms Larke to calm her down when she was self-harming, which he claimed she did, once gouging her wrists and threatening to kill herself.

The jury convicted Collins after deliberating for nearly 12 hours over three days, agreeing by a 10-1 majority that he had subjected her to months of harassment and abuse after they moved in together in January last year.

Sandra Horley, the chief executive of the domestic violence charity Refuge, said she was "disappointed" by the punishment handed to Collins by Justice John Plumstead, adding that the sentence "does not send a strong public message that domestic violence, or threat of violence, is as serious as any other violent crime".

"Derisory sentences such as this simply reflect the need for further training to increase understanding of domestic violence and its impact – domestic violence kills two women a week," she said. "Until the courts give sentences that fit the crime, men like Justin Lee Collins will get away with campaigns of terror and thousands of women, like Anna, will continue to be at risk."

Outside court, however, Ms Larke and her family said they were "absolutely ecstatic with the verdict" and "relieved the jury were able to see through the lies of an abuser".

"We will not rest on our laurels in the wake of this good news and intend to go out into the world and use this experience to empower women to stand up to domestic abuse," they said.

The judge told Collins, who has two children and was previously married: "You became increasingly unable to deal with the difficulties in your relationship and on more than one occasion you lost your self control and acted in a violent way."

A spokesman for Collins said he was "extremely disappointed" by the decision and would consider his position with his lawyers.

Channel 4, BSkyB and Channel 5, Collins' recent broadcasting employers, each said they had no current plans to work with him in the future.

Collins, who enjoyed presenting roles on BBC3, MTV and Channel 4, met Ms Larke at an awards ceremony in 2006, embarking upon an affair with her. In recent years he had bounced between Sky 1 and Channel 5, where his own chat show proved short-lived, before earning plaudits for his singing role in the West End musical Rock of Ages.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and David Cameron appeal to the audience during the Question Time special
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’
tvThe Enfield Haunting, TV review
The Mattehorn stands reflected in Leisee lake near Sunnegga station on June 30, 2013 near Zermatt, Switzerland
Michelle Dockery plays Lady Mary in Downton Abbey
peopleBut who comes top of the wish list?
Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, right, with Lib Dem candidate Jane Dodds in Newtown, Powys, as part of her tour in support of the party’s female candidates
general electionNick Clegg's wife has impressed during the campaign
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living