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Thugs who attacked former magistrate and councillor in Canterbury for 'being gay' are jailed

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A homophobic couple who tortured a former magistrate in his own home after he had opened his heart about his sexuality have been jailed.

Vince McMahan from Canterbury had a fire-poker forced down his throat and was beaten to the floor in a shockingly brutal attack.

Vince McMahan was subjected to a brutal attack not long after he came out as gay
Vince McMahan was subjected to a brutal attack not long after he came out as gay

Mr McMahan, who was also a former Canterbury city councillor, died 18 months after the attack.

Stuart Holland, 45, rammed a fire-poker down his throat, while Holland’s partner Joanna Bath, 46, drew a cosh from her handbag and cracked Mr McMahan over the head.

Appearing at Canterbury Crown Court today, Holland was sentenced to three years for actual bodily harm and theft, while Bath received a 27-month jail term for the same offences. Bath received an additional three years for previous drugs and shoplifting offences, to be served consecutively.

After the attack, the former magistrate told police: “I am shaken by this incident because I wouldn’t expect to be attacked in my own home - I’m also upset about being targeted and attacked because of my sexuality.

“This incident has made me very wary to leave my address in case I bump into (the pair) in the street."

Stuart Holland. Photo: Kent Police
Stuart Holland. Photo: Kent Police

At an earlier hearing, prosecutors told how the couple targeted Mr McMahan after reading an article in KentOnline's sister paper The Kentish Gazette where he opened up about his sexuality.

James Ross, prosecuting, explained Mr McMahan found disclosing his sexuality “a weight off his shoulders”.

Holland, a carpenter, and his partner Bath knocked on Mr McMahan’s door at 10.30pm, and were invited inside, as Holland had recently done some work for him.

“While all sitting in the living room Stuart Holland made a comment about Vincent McMahan’s sexuality,” the barrister continued. “Vincent McMahan said in the local press that he was gay, a magistrate, and it as a great weight off his shoulders."

Holland repeatedly slapped Mr McMahan and called him “queer”, then thrashed him with a nearby fire-poker.

Jo Bath. Photo: Kent Police
Jo Bath. Photo: Kent Police

“Holland used that poker to begin striking Mr McMahan’s right leg a few times - this caused cuts and soreness,” the barrister went on.

“After Holland used the poker, Bath then got up and slapped Mr McMahan a few times, she then took an implement from her handbag and used this to hit Mr McMahan on the back of the head.”

Both levelled unfounded sexual allegations towards Mr McMahan calling him “a pervert”, the court was told.

When their victim tried fleeing, Holland intensified his campaign of humiliation, Mr Ross said.

The barrister labelled the attack “gratuitous degradation”, adding: “It was at this point Mr Holland grabbed him and inserted the poker into his mouth, causing him to gag.”

Vince McMahan was previously a councillor for Herne Bay, at Canterbury City Council
Vince McMahan was previously a councillor for Herne Bay, at Canterbury City Council

Mr McMahan had recently employed Holland to carry out carpentry work on his Canterbury home, meaning he could come and go as he pleased.

And Mr McMahan “didn’t expect anything was wrong” when he invited Holland and Bath into his home, just minutes before the attack unfolded in March 2019.

Mr McMahan died of unrelated causes in 2020.

Both defendants pleaded guilty to causing actual bodily harm and theft while a charge of joint enterprise robbery was asked to lie on file.

Bath, of Beaumont Street in Herne Bay, also pleaded guilty to 11 unrelated counts of theft and two counts of supplying Class A drugs at previous hearings.

Judge James O'Mahony
Judge James O'Mahony

Her barrister Phil Rowley said Bath lost her way after being the victim of an assault, adding: “The effect upon her was traumatic.”

He said she was an addict at the time of her offending, played a “lesser-role” and had cleaned up her act in prison.

Keiran Brand, for Holland, said his client assaulted Mr McMahan in an unresolved row over money rather than a homophobic attack.

At today's sentencing hearing, Judge James O’Mahony said: “Mr McMahan tried to dial 999 to get help but that was prevented by Joanne Bath snatching the phone and preventing him from doing so. Stuart Holland then grabbed Mr MacMahan (and) inserted the poker into his mouth causing him to gag."

Mr McMahan’s wallet, still containing his magistrate’s identification, was discovered in Bath’s bin.

“I’m so sorry it went too far, nobody was meant to get hurt.”

Holland was found hiding in his loft and Bath, who had no previous convictions for violence, told officers following her arrest: “I’m so sorry it went too far, nobody was meant to get hurt.”

Judge O’Mahony said the homophobic nature of the attack pushed the deserved punishment “above the sentencing guidelines”. He added the use of a weapon, the victim’s degradation and vulnerability, abuse of trust and homophobic hostility created a “clean sweep of every box” for higher culpability.

The judge explained Holland’s previous criminal record for violence was an aggravating feature.

The list of charges read in court included wounding, actual bodily harm, assaulting emergency workers, carrying an offensive weapon, affray and common assault dating back to 1996.

Bath’s previous includes six counts of theft, possession of a Class A drug and vehicle interference.

To read more of our in depth coverage of all of the major trials coming out of crown and magistrates' courts across the county, click here.

For information on how we can report on court proceedings, click here.

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