Aristocrat jailed for beating wife

Braintree and Witham Times: Lord Edward Somerset pleaded guilty to four counts of assault occasioning actual bodily harm against his wife Lord Edward Somerset pleaded guilty to four counts of assault occasioning actual bodily harm against his wife

An aristocrat from one of Britain's grandest families has been jailed for two years after admitting beating his wife over a 22-year period.

Lord Edward Somerset, 55, admitted four counts of assault occasioning actual bodily harm against his wife, Lady Caroline Somerset, between 1990 and 2012.

The attacks - in which Lady Caroline suffered bruising, scratching, hair pulling and a fractured finger - took place on the sprawling Badminton Estate in Gloucester, where the couple lived.

Bristol Crown Court heard Somerset became enraged and assaulted his wife when she confronted him about his addiction to drink and drugs including heroin and cocaine.

In 2011, Lady Caroline received an "incredibly hard" kick to her foot after challenging her husband when he moved his new girlfriend into their home while they were married.

She required hospital treatment last year from two attacks after arguing with her husband after he took crack cocaine in front of their youngest daughter.

Judge Mark Horton jailed the peer, who appeared gaunt and dishevelled in the dock, for two years - telling him the attacks left Lady Caroline in "emotional turmoil".

"This is a case of two tragedies," the judge said.

"A tragedy of a man born to privilege and almost limitless opportunities whose life has been marred and destroyed by an addiction to alcohol and drugs and an uncontrollable temper.

"The tragedy with which the court is concerned is the tragedy caused to your wife by you over a period of 22 years by your repeated and deliberate violence.

"You abused your position of power over your wife, not only physically but more importantly by psychological and emotional damage caused by that physical control."

He also imposed a restraining order to protect Lady Caroline, who is in Australia, from her estranged husband.

Somerset remained emotionless as the sentence was passed.

Divorce proceedings between the couple, who have two daughters, Francesca and Rose, are set to be finalised in the near future.

Prosecuting, Eleanor Laws QC told the court: "The defendant is Lord Somerset, the son of the Duke of Beaufort, the complainant is his wife, Lady Caroline Somerset.

"The couple were married for over 30 years, during which he subjected his wife to incidents of serious, repeated domestic violence."

Ms Laws said the marriage started as a "happy one", with the couple moving to New York.

"Their time in New York was best described as hedonistic, they both did indulge in a party lifestyle," she said.

Their first daughter, Francesca, was born in the American city and the family moved to London after her birth.

Lady Caroline realised her husband had a drink problem and suspected he was taking hard drugs, with arguments sparked about his heroin use.

"When she confronted him, the arguments resulted in him being violent towards her," Ms Laws said.

"Their dysfunctional marriage continued in the same vein.

"Many of their arguments were fuelled by alcohol as it was only when she had been drinking that she had the courage to confront him about his drinking and drug use."

In July 1991, the couple were visiting friend Katya Middleton in France when they began arguing.

"He reacted by dragging her across the floor and punched her to the head and body," Ms Laws said.

"She received two black eyes, bruising to her arms and a dislocated finger that required hospital treatment."

Despite this, the couple returned to England together and moved into Essex House on the Badminton Estate, where daughter Rose was born in 1992.

"The violence became more frequent, she was often left bruised after her husband became aggressive in an argument." Ms Laws said.

Somerset has admitted assaulting his wife between January 1 1990 and December 31 2011, causing his wife injuries including a bruise, scratches and pulled hair.

Three years ago, Lady Caroline went into rehabilitation for alcohol abuse and later moved into a house in London, where she stayed with daughter Rose during the week.

She returned to the Badminton Estate at the weekends to see her husband.

But in late 2011, Somerset began a relationship with another woman.

"The lady would stay in Badminton during the week and leave when Lady Caroline came to visit at the weekend," Ms Laws said.

"Lady Caroline was still telling herself that she hoped things would improve.

"She confided in friends but she could not imagine living another life.

"She felt protective towards her husband's family."

In November 2011, Lady Caroline was alone at Essex House with Somerset when an argument about his new girlfriend flared.

He kicked his wife to the left of her foot while wearing shoes.

"The blow was incredibly hard and she thought he had broken her foot," Ms Laws said.

The following year, on October 5 2012, Lady Caroline confronted her husband about taking crack cocaine in front of their daughter, Rose.

He kicked her to the lower left side of her body, leaving her with a black bruise to her wrist and discolouration to her eye.

Somerset later punched her in the stomach.

She was taken for treatment at Frenchay Hospital in Bristol after believing she had suffered a broken rib in the attack.

Doctors found she had bruising to her left eye, nose and lower rib cage and reported the injuries to police.

Somerset was interviewed by officers and told them: "I shouldn't do it, I know.

"That is what worries me, I think I could go further one day.

"It was all so undignified."

In a victim impact statement, Lady Caroline, who initially refused to cooperate with police, said: "I don't know why Edward assaulted me and though he apologised, he never explained.

"I lost my confidence, my self-esteem and believed everything was my fault.

"I would state I have suffered enormous emotional and psychological damage."

Representing Somerset, William Clegg QC, said his client estimated there were between two and three periods of domestic violence in the 30-year marriage.

"He is not pleading guilty on the basis that he hit his wife every day, every week, every month or even every year," Mr Clegg said.

"For quite long periods of the marriage they were happy and were both living alternative lifestyles.

"Lord Somerset has not asked for special treatment because of his background."

Speaking after the case, Rob Allen, senior Crown prosecutor for CPS South West, said the investigation into Somerset's actions had been "complex".

"This case is a reminder that domestic violence permeates all sections of our society," Mr Allen said.

"It also highlights the devastating consequences that this type of abuse has on victims and their families."

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