Biggleswade man who watched ex-partner’s every move is jailed in first conviction of its kind in Bedfordshire

Ricky Pritchard, of Potton Road in Biggleswade, has been jailed for coercive and controlling behavio

Ricky Pritchard, of Potton Road in Biggleswade, has been jailed for coercive and controlling behaviour - the first conviction of its kind in Bedfordshire. Picture: Bedfordshire Police - Credit: Archant

A Biggleswade man has become the first person in Bedfordshire to be convicted of coercive and controlling behaviour after his ex-partner was subjected to ‘appalling’ attempts to take away her freedom by watching her every move.

Luton Crown Court heard how Ricky Pritchard, of Potton Road, restricted the movements of his ex-partner – who officers from Bedfordshire Police praised for showing such ‘bravery and courage’ in coming forward.

The 34-year-old would demand to see the victim’s phone, took over her social media and email accounts, spent hours trawling through her location settings and would challenge her, making her account for her whereabouts throughout the day.

Pritchard would also pressure his ex-partner into lending him money – which he never repaid.

Even after separation the abuse and intimidation continued, with threats that he was ‘coming to find her’, telling her to ‘be careful’ and even threatening sexual violence.

Following an investigation by Bedfordshire Police, Pritchard entered his guilty plea via a live video link to court from prison, as he is currently serving time for breaching a restraining order issued after an offence of criminal damage – where he smashed the victim’s phone during an argument.

He was sentenced at Luton Crown Court on Wednesday, the judge handing him an 18-month stint behind bars for the offences – with a further four months on top for breaching a restraining order.

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Pritchard also received an indefinite restraining order, restricting his access to areas of the county, to further protect the victim.

During sentencing the judge described the case as a “shocking catalogue of controlling behaviour, tantamount to taking away the victim’s identity”. He went on to describe the behaviour as “degrading”.

Investigating officers from the Bedfordshire force’s Emerald team, dedicated to tackling domestic crime and serious sexual offences, are delighted with the conviction.

Det Con Gareth Jones said: “Pritchard’s appalling actions had a substantially adverse effect on the victim’s day-to-day activities.

“The victim has displayed such bravery and courage in having the strength to come forward. I would like to praise her for that and hope the sentence goes some way to allow her to live her life again without the constraints of this appalling behaviour.”

Det Con Pat Mallen said: “Pritchard showed total disrespect for the victim and the law, even during interview he had an abusive and condescending attitude.

“Despite separation and with a court order in place, Pritchard continued this abusive and threatening behaviour. He curtailed her freedom and we are sending a strong message to those that think this is acceptable that we will take action.”

Det Insp Aaron Kiff, force tactical lead for domestic abuse, added: “The conviction is the first of its kind in Bedfordshire and marks our ongoing commitment to victims in tackling these types of offences.

“Coercive control is subtle – it isn’t always obvious what has happened and the victim may not recognise the behaviour as abuse.

“The desire to control often underpins abusive relationships and can lead to violence. It’s our job to identify the wider vulnerability of domestic abuse, to recognise and understand the dynamics of abuse.”

If you are concerned about someone, or feel you are in a controlling relationship, support is available. You can contact Beds police on 101, where you will be listened to, but always call 999 in an emergency.

Alternatively you can contact the 24-hour National Domestic Violence helpline 0808 2000 247.