*** Update 15.01.19
The Attorney General has decided not to refer this case to the Court of Appeal, as “the sentence given fell within the range available to the judge.”
See the AG’s letter to Harriet Harman here. ***
“No threat to the public.”
“She wanted it.”
“She deserved it.”
“Rough sex gone wrong.”
I don’t particularly like trigger warnings, but this might be a difficult piece to read. It was certainly hard enough to write.
When it comes to violence against women, there is rarely such thing as an “isolated incident”. The daily harassment, assault, rape and murder that overwhelmingly men commit against women (and which we live in the shadow and threat of) are the manifestations of a spectrum of misogyny. The wider public is beginning to see the connections that feminists have been calling out for decades.
And yet, the vast majority of the time it seems we maintain a narcissistic splitting when it comes to identifying perpetrators and supporting and believing victims of violence.
He was so “adoring”, no one could possibly have predicted that he would be so abusive behind closed doors.
He was so “evil” that we couldn’t have stopped him anyway.
She was “nagging” him, so she deserved a quick slap.
She once enjoyed “rough sex” so she consented to being beaten to death.
Natalie Connolly died from acute alcohol intoxication and blunt force injuries on 18 December 2016.
On 17th December 2018, John Broadhurst was sentenced to 3 years and 8 months for her manslaughter.
Broadhurst was initially charged with murder and grievous bodily harm with intent, but the Crown Prosecution Service dropped this charge and downgraded to manslaughter midway through the trial. He plead guilty to this lesser charge (and was awarded the full one third discount for a guilty plea despite the plea coming so late).
Natalie was 26 and mother to a now 10-year-old daughter. I have been unable to find any further details about her life. Broadhurst is a millionaire property developer, reportedly worth £15m. His wealth and perceived “potential” or “upstanding” status no doubt plays into the reduced sentence. (Anyone remember Brock Turner? Or how jurors fail to convict young men of serious sexual assault?)
The argument for the charge of manslaughter is based on the fact that Natalie is supposed to have “insisted” that Broadhurst beat her; that it was consensual sexual activity; that he believed she would be fine when he left her at the bottom of the stairs to bleed to death, as he had left her in similar positions in the past (by his own admission).
And yet, Natalie suffered 40 separate injuries, including serious internal trauma, a fractured eye socket and facial wounds, and was bleeding heavily. She had blood alcohol at 5 times the drunk driving limit, a level which would have rendered her almost comatose, at risk of death, and certainly unable to consent to any sexual activity under UK law. (I don’t want to go into further details of her injuries here, as they are truly horrifying. If you want to read more, see @ThatMidwife’s statement and letter to the attorney general).
The jury also heard that Broadhurst may have wanted to “teach Natalie a lesson” and that he “lost it” after finding out she had been sending topless pictures to another man on social media.
Are we supposed to square that with “rough sex” and “she wanted it”? Don’t these all just sound like the excuses of abusive men that we have heard over and over and over again? In reality, it sounds more like he wanted revenge, that he tortured her to death to get it, and then claimed it was her fault.
Although supposedly they are not permitted to, the courts still use women’s sexual histories against them in rape and sexual assault trials. Women have little enough voice and legitimacy in legal proceedings as it is, but dead women can’t speak at all. Whatever the perpetrator says about their relationship (in this case, that they were happy together and engaged in consensual BDSM activity), she has no way to counter it. Do we take his evidence at face value?
Regarding the sentence, former solicitor general and Labour MP Harriet Harman said: “This is a very ominous development. We stopped men getting away with murder by blaming their wife’s infidelity and now we’ve got a new version of male justification for homicide.”
She raised concerns that the case could set a legal precedent, adding: “When a woman is dead she can’t speak for herself. Any man charged with killing a current or former partner or prostitute could simply say she wanted it.” This opens up the possibility for men to much more easily escape guilty verdicts on what is in truth to sexual assault, torture and murder. It is not “rough sex gone wrong”.
None of this even goes to mention that a) the foundation of UK law is that you can’t consent to being seriously injured or killed; and b) we don’t accept that someone incapacitated by drugs and alcohol can consent to sex. Despite this, in the sentencing remarks, the judge states: “I cannot be sure that Natalie was not capable in fact of consenting, notwithstanding her extreme intoxication, and I will proceed on the basis that she did indicate her consent to being beaten by you…”
We cannot let this stand. We are at a dangerous juncture – if this judgement is upheld it may set a precedent allowing women to be blamed for the assault, rape and murder inflicted upon them.
After sentencing, there is a window of 28 days to register a complaint. Broadhurst was sentenced on 17th December. That means we have less than a week less to keep up the pressure. Please write to the attorney general to demand an appeal of this unduly lenient sentence before 14th January. You can find the contact details and a template letter below.
Because when it comes to male violence, there are no isolated incidents.
You can send a letter by post to:
Geoffrey Cox QC
5-8 The Sanctuary
or via email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
FAO Geoffrey Cox
I am writing to you to review the sentence of just 40 months of John Broadhurst at Birmingham Crown Court, following the brutal death of Natalie Connolly. Not only did she receive over 40 injuries, but she was callously left to die when medical intervention could have saved her life.
The so called mitigation of ‘rough sex gone wrong’ sets a dangerous precedent to excuse extreme violence against women. I therefore believe that this sentence is unduly lenient. I ask that this case is referred to the Court of Appeal.
You can also find other templates and suggestions online.