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Kerry Mitchell walks free after attacking Jehovah's Witnesses with hammer in Tunbridge Wells

A drunk mother who attacked a group of Jehovah’s Witnesses with a claw hammer has walked free after a judge decided the public would be better served by rehabilitation

Kerry Mitchell had downed two bottles of vodka and eight cans of strong lager over 24 hours when she lashed out at the victims.

Judge Jeremy Carey said a hammer blow to the head could easily kill or shatter the skull.

Kerry Mitchell, who attacked a Jehovah's Witness follower with a hammer (1476080)
Kerry Mitchell, who attacked a Jehovah's Witness follower with a hammer (1476080)

“The fact you are an overweight, 5ft 2in middle-aged woman and a drunk would not have prevented that happening,” he told her.

The judge also criticised his powers on sentencing when imposing eight months imprisonment suspended for 18 months.

Mitchell admitted racially aggravated harassment, possessing an offensive weapon and three offences of common assault.

Maidstone Crown Court heard the 44-year-old reacted angrily when five Jehovah’s Witnesses called at her flat in Lott Close, Tunbridge Wells, on January 9 this year.

Prosecutor Trevor Wright said when Mitchell’s doorbell was rung, her response was: “What?”

Jessica Chapman responded on the intercom: “We are calling to speak to you about the Bible.”

Mitchell began swearing before going out into the communal hall.

“She marched up to the main door, flung it open and approached Jessica,” said Mr Wright. “She was swearing, shouting ‘F--- off’ F------ well clear off’

“She was throwing her arms about in a very angry and upset manner. She said: ‘My son is dead and my husband is not giving me a Christmas present.’”

Mr Wright said there was an attempt to be sympathetic to her but she pushed Mrs Chapman in the chest, causing her to stumble backwards.

Mitchell stepped back and said: “Just look at you.” She then grabbed another Jehovah’s Witness, Anne Marchant, by the coat and pulled her forward.

Mrs Chapman told Mitchell: “She is an elderly lady. Let go.” Mitchell replied: “Well, my husband is 73.”

Maidstone Crown Court, (1130474)
Maidstone Crown Court, (1130474)

Mr Wright said as the five Jehovah’s Witnesses started to walk away Mrs Chapman shouted to Mrs Marchant’s husband Mike to watch out.

He turned to see Mitchell shouting and screaming as she brandished a hammer. She lashed out at him, striking him on the shoulder.

He grabbed hold of Mitchell’s arm but she would not let go. She kept trying to swing the weapon and was repeating: “My son has died and I am grieving.”

Anne Marchant put her handbag in the way to protect herself. The hammer was eventually wrestled from Mitchell’s hand.

A builder who came over to see what was happening was also verbally abused.

The court heard Mitchell had a number of previous convictions for assault but had not offended since 2009.

Passing sentence, Judge Carey said the Jehovah’s Witnesses just wished to talk to her and others about the Bible, as was their right.

“Instead of either listening to them or if you so wished just courteously declining, you verbally and physically threatened them, and not content with that vile language in your drunken state, you then pursued them when they posed no threat of any kind to you, and with a hammer you endeavoured to cause them injury, and might have done so quite easily.

“For the head of a hammer can go through the skull of a human being with the greatest of ease and kill them, or if it hits the bones it can shatter them.

“The fact you are an overweight, 5ft 2in middle-aged woman and a drunk would not have prevented that happening.”

Highlighting the restriction on the punishment he could impose, he said: “So often one hears the public complain about the inadequacy of sentencing for violence committed in public in the presence of others.

“The public have a reasonable expectation that those who indulge in this kind of vile and physically threatening behaviour will be appropriately punished.

“So, as your counsel has rightly recognised, you can have no justifiable complaint about an immediate prison sentence. The custody threshold is passed, and well passed in your case.

“However, there are restrictions on what might be thought by uninformed members of the public, in other words non-lawyers, to be very low maximum sentences.

“The maximum sentence for the assaults is six months imprisonment and for the offensive weapon two years. Under guidelines, the starting point is six months – all this after conviction and before credit.”

The sentence could, therefore, only be measured in months and not years.

But the judge said there had to be a realistic assessment of the effect of immediate custody on Mitchell, “as opposed to one which might have some rehabilitative effect”.

Her life had been marked by misfortune and mishap.

Judge Carey said he had to decide whether it was in the public interest to sent Mitchell straight to prison.

The effect would be for her to lose her accommodation, and with home detention curfew would serve less than two or three months.

“I reach the conclusion, with some hesitation, therefore, that the public is much better served by the imposition of a suspended sentence order, with requirements,” he added.

Judge Carey sentenced her to four months for possessing an offensive weapon and four months consecutive for the assaults, suspended for 18 months.

She was fined £200 for religiously aggravated harassment. She will be subject to a tagged six-month curfew from 8pm to 6am and a 20-day rehabilitation activity requirement was imposed to address her alcohol addiction.

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