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.

News
i100
News
people Emma Watson addresses celebrity nude photo leak
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
News
peopleHis band Survivor was due to resume touring this month
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese and DiCaprio, at an awards show in 2010
filmsDe Niro, DiCaprio and Pitt to star
News
i100
News
In this photo illustration a school student eats a hamburger as part of his lunch which was brought from a fast food shop near his school, on October 5, 2005 in London, England. The British government has announced plans to remove junk food from school lunches. From September 2006, food that is high in fat, sugar or salt will be banned from meals and removed from vending machines in schools across England. The move comes in response to a campaign by celebrity TV chef Jamie Oliver to improve school meals.
science
Life and Style
Red or dead: An actor portrays Hungarian countess Elizabeth Báthory, rumoured to have bathed in blood to keep youthful
health
Arts and Entertainment
James Dean on the set of 'Rebel without a Cause', 1955
photographyHe brought documentary photojournalism to Tinseltown, and in doing so, changed the way film stars would be portrayed for ever
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
News
i100
Sport
Tom Cleverley
footballLoan move comes 17 hours after close of transfer window
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
footballRadamel Falcao and Diego Costa head record £835m influx
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Chief inspector of GPs: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

Steve Field: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

The man charged with inspecting doctors explains why he may not be welcome in every surgery
Stolen youth: Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing

Stolen youth

Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing
Bob Willoughby: Hollywood's first behind the scenes photographer

Bob Willoughby: The reel deal

He was the photographer who brought documentary photojournalism to Hollywood, changing the way film stars would be portrayed for ever
Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

Scorsese in the director's chair with De Niro, DiCaprio and Pitt to star
Angelina Jolie's wedding dress: made by Versace, designed by her children

Made by Versace, designed by her children

Angelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
Anyone for pulled chicken?

Pulling chicks

Pulled pork has gone from being a US barbecue secret to a regular on supermarket shelves. Now KFC is trying to tempt us with a chicken version
9 best steam generator irons

9 best steam generator irons

To get through your ironing as swiftly as possible, invest in one of these efficient gadgets
'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing