Hammer-wielding debt chaser caused victim 'utter misery'

Ipswich Crown Court

Nigel Smith told the victim he would be 'relentless' in pursuing the debt - Credit: Archant

A 60-year-old Suffolk man who caused a woman “utter misery” by relentlessly pursuing her for a debt owed to him by her partner has been given a suspended prison sentence.

During the five-month campaign of harassment, Nigel Smith turned up at the woman’s home with two hammers - including a sledgehammer - and sent her repeated threatening text messages, Ipswich Crown Court heard.

Sentencing Smith on Tuesday (July 6), Judge Emma Peters said: “For five months you caused this lady utter misery. She’d done you no wrong and you shouldn’t have turned your wrath on her.”

Smith, of Newton Cottage, Barking, near Ipswich, admitted putting the woman in fear of violence by harassment between January 14 and May 23 last year.

He was given a 14-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, a 20-day rehabilitation activity requirement and ordered to do 180 hours unpaid work.

He was also ordered to pay £1,500 costs.

Matthew Morgan, prosecuting, said the victim had been in a relationship with the man who owed Smith money for 13 years.

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When the debt was not repaid, Smith had started “vigorously pursuing” her for the money and had sent her a number of threatening messages.

These included telling her that he had previously been arrested for violence and would not want to behave like that again.

He also turned up at her house with a sledgehammer and a smaller hammer to pick up some boxes and struck a gate with the hammers, knocking a hole in it.

Smith also threatened to tell the police and the woman’s employers her partner was a drug dealer if the £2,600 debt was not repaid.

He also sent a warning that her property would be “burnt to the ground” if he didn’t get his money and told her: “I’m f****** relentless.”

Mr Morgan said that as a result of Smith’s threats, the woman had been left constantly looking over her shoulder and felt she’d “aged 20 years”.

She had also moved out of her home and stopped working because of the devastating effect Smith’s behaviour had on her.

Joanne Eley, for Smith, said the victim’s partner had been a long-standing friend.

He had felt let down when he had failed to repay the money he had lent him, she told the court.

Miss Eley said Smith had strong support in the community and  handed the court 13 references from people who spoke highly of him.

She said Smith should have realised it was not the victim’s fault the money had not been repaid and that he should have pursued her partner for the debt.

She accepted his behaviour was “appalling” and that he should have gone about recovering the debt in a different way.

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