A man who strangled his estranged girlfriend during a row in her home has been spared jail after his barrister convinced a judge he was mending his ways.

John Lanaway, 30, of Shackledell in Stevenage, was found guilty of putting his hands around his victim’s neck and squeezing firmly with force.

Prosecutor Nigel Ogborne told St Albans Crown Court how Lanaway had been arguing with his partner earlier in the day, but returned drunk to her home in Stevenage at around 3am, at which time he pushed her onto her bed, grabbed her face in his hands and then covered her mouth and nose before strangling her.

He then pulled shelves off the wall, causing the contents to smash onto the floor, before leaving.


A five-year-old boy was in the house at the time and, although he did not witness the assault, was left extremely distressed by the aftermath, the court heard.

Following his arrest, Lanaway subsequently returned to his victim’s home to try and talk to her and made numerous unwanted phone calls.

He eventually pleaded guilty to ABH, criminal damage and harassment and was convicted of strangulation following a trial.


Mitigating, Nicholas Maggs said his client did not have a constant criminal record, had always been in work and was generally a responsible person.

However, stress over his mother’s mental health following her deterioration from Alzheimer’s had taken its toll, and he was drinking too much and using drugs when the offence occurred.

“He wishes he had packed his bags and left earlier in the day,” said Mr Maggs, adding that he thought a community sentence and rehabilitation would be of greater benefit to Lanaway than prison.

Judge Joanna Matson told Lanaway his actions would have had a significant impact on his victim: “She was scared for her life. She didn't know what you were going to do and she must have been petrified.

“Research also shows there is a real impact on children when they have to witness domestic violence or what follows.”


But although she was initially minded to pass a custodial sentence, she said the defence had convinced her otherwise, especially the fact that Lanaway’s mother is not likely to recognise her son for much longer.

“You are a very lucky man,” she added. “I was initially going to send you into immediate custody.”

She sentenced him to two years in prison, suspended for 18 months, and ordered him to attend 30 sessions of a Building Better Relationships programme. A restraining order of two years was also imposed.