Firefighter spared jail for stabbing

A FIREFIGHTER sobbed in court as he was told he would not be jailed for stabbing a Conservative councillor who he claimed had sexually abused him.Gavin Leathlean, 30, had allegedly suffered years of anguish and depression as a result of being sexually assaulted by former Braintree district councillor Clive Tanner when he was eight and again when he was 19.

By Danielle Nuttall

A FIREFIGHTER sobbed in court as he was told he would not be jailed for stabbing a Conservative councillor who he claimed had sexually abused him.

Gavin Leathlean, 30, had allegedly suffered years of anguish and depression as a result of being sexually assaulted by former Braintree district councillor Clive Tanner when he was eight and again when he was 19.

Yesterday, Ipswich Crown Court heard Leathlean had gone to Tanner's home in Swan Street, Sible Hedingham, in a drunken state on January 10, telling him when he answered the door: "I'm the last person you thought you would see."


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He then lunged at him with a knife used for his work as a firefighter, stabbing him five times in the back and cutting his left finger.

Despite some of the injuries being more than 2cm deep, Mr Tanner escaped serious injury.

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Leathlean, of Meadside, Wethersfield, admitted wounding Mr Tanner with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

Judge John Devaux said the case had involved exceptional circumstances and sentenced him to a two-year suspended prison sentence.

The judge told him: "If you went to Mr Tanner's home intending revenge you were not entitled to. You should have taken your allegations to the police."

He added: "You were suffering psychological difficulties at that time.

"You were a very troubled man and in my judgement there are exceptional circumstances to suspend the sentence that I must pass."

The court was told Leathlean and his three brothers had allegedly suffered years of torment at the hands of his violent father, who it was claimed locked food away from the family and then sold it back to his wife when it was out of date.

Allan Compton, defending, said, unbeknown to the family, Leathlean's father was a homosexual and regularly held parties where he would invite men back to the home and, at one of these parties, Mr Tanner had been a guest.

He told the court that on this occasion, Leathlean, who was eight at the time, had woken up to discover Mr Tanner sexually assaulting him.

Mr Compton said he tried to tell his parents what had happened, but his father refused to believe him and his mother was too dominated by her husband to question him.

Years later, when he was 19, he had been in a pub where he encountered Tanner again but did not recognise him.

He went back to his house with a group of people and was allegedly "plied with drink and drugs" and woke up to find Mr Tanner raping him, Mr Compton added.

A formal complaint has been made to police against Mr Tanner, who was arrested and released on police bail, the court heard.

Mr Tanner has denied the allegations, and said there had been consensual sexual activity between them about five years ago.

Mr Compton said: "Over the next 10 or 11 years he (Leathlean) was serving a sentence of sorts as a consequence of the devastating effects of that rape.

"He was ashamed to tell those he should have what happened. He bottled it up. He sought solace in drink."

Mr Compton said his client had suffered from post traumatic stress disorder and said his mental health had deteriorated as his relationship broke down with his fiancée, who did not know of the alleged abuse and thought he might be having an affair.

He told the court, in the days before the incident, Leathlean had confronted his father in front of his family. His mother had then kicked his father out of the home.

Mr Compton said the incident had not been meticulously planned, but had been a culmination of severe depression and post traumatic stress disorder.

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