A WORLD champion kickboxer has been jailed for a bitter campaign of control against a former partner which involved bugging her phone.

Ronnie 'The Shark' Clark installed spyware on the woman's mobile and tried to rule her life – even after they had split up.

Their relationship crumbled amid the fighter's repeated affairs, yet jealous Clark continued trying to tell his ex who she could and could not see.

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The 32-year-old is among the first to be prosecuted under new laws which brought into force a crime of engaging in controlling or coercive behaviour.

The Northern Echo: JAILED: Ronnie 'The Shark' Clark is one of the first to be jailed in the country under a new coercive behaviour law.

JAILED: Ronnie 'The Shark' Clark is one of the first to be jailed in the country under a new coercive behaviour law

He issued menacing demands in a barrage of emails and texts and at one point his brother got involved with a sinister warning.

The brother told the terrified mother-of-two from North Yorkshire: "I want to help before the children have no parents."

In a series of emails, he added frightening things such as "you know what he's capable of" and "he's not scared of killing people".

Clark denied the charge but was convicted by magistrates in Northallerton after a trial last month and appeared at Teesside Crown Court for sentence.

Last night Becky Rogerson, chief officer of domestic abuse charity My Sister's Place, welcomed the prison term, which she said sent a strong message that controlling behaviour was completely unacceptable.

"I hope we can see a few more convictions for controlling behaviour, because I think it educates us all about the nature of domestic abuse, that it is a pattern of behaviour, that increases over time, rather than an isolated incident of assault.

"These cases are notoriously difficult to prosecute and also I think that people and services don't always recognise what it is or that it is prosecutable on its own.

The court heard how the woman's ordeal has taken a devastating toll on her, including sleepless nights and weight loss through anxiety.

In a victim impact statement, she said: "My house has locks, alarms and kick bars, but if he flips out what is that going to do.

"It has caused massive anxiety to me. I have a constant knot in my stomach, random heart palpitations and tingling hands.

"I am weak and exhausted, and I'm on tablets for anxiety. Having the curtains open for one hour a day was an achievement for me."

Judge Deborah Sherwin told Clark: "One gets the impression that she was fairly punch-drunk with how you were behaving towards her."

The court heard the couple met when she was 13, but their relationship did not begin until 2010 after being in Facebook contact.

The woman became pregnant and they moved to Dundee - where Clark is from - the following year, prosecutor Nigel Soppitt said.

It was initially a happy relationship, but problems arose in 2012 when she accused Clark of having affairs and he called her paranoid.

But the court heard the sportsman - also ranked five in the UK in boxing at super-featherweight - fathered a child with another woman.

His lawyer, Amrit Jandoo, said he had his fight licence revoked after his arrest, but was likely to have it reinstated if he was not jailed.

He had a bout lined up for September in Hungary, and training camps in London and Edinburgh - which he will now miss after getting nine months.

The court heard Clark returned to Scotland in September 2015, and over the next two months messaged his ex about her relationships.

He bought her a new phone that Christmas, and installed software to show him who she was sending texts to - and threatened to kill a man she was in touch with.

Several months later, he travelled to North Yorkshire and turned up uninvited at a party.

On his ex-partner's birthday, he was in touch to claim he knew where she was and where she had been - "effectively, there was some sort of surveillance", said Mr Soppitt.

Speaking afterwards, Ms Rogerson said : "We are so supportive of this law and these convictions because it really gives a much fuller picture of what domestic violence is.

"The coercive control element wears the victim down, prevents them from going to court, prevents them from prosecuting, because they don't feel very heard."

She said she expected to see far more cases coming to court in future as police, social workers and other agencies were being trained about coercive control.

"An assault can happen as an isolated incident so prosecuting that never got to the bottom of what domestic abuse is." she said.

Cleveland was the first force in the North-East to charge a man with the offence and he was jailed for 12 months in June 2016.

Clark is believed to be the first person to be successfully prosecuted under the new law by North Yorkshire Police.