THE controversy surrounding the use of the 'rough sex' defence after a Darlington woman was strangled to death has reached the national airwaves.

The 'lenient' sentence that Sam Pybus received after choking 33-year-old Sophie Moss to death has outraged campaigners.

The 32-year-old was jailed for four years and eight months after pleading guilty to manslaughter after initially being charged with murder of the mother-of-two.

Pybus will be released after reaching the halfway stage of his sentence and after spending several months on remand, he will serve two years in custody.

The Northern Echo: Sam PybusSam Pybus

Following calls for the sentence to be reviewed, the Jeremy Vine Show on Radio 2 tackled the contentious issue.

Dr Charlotte Proudman, an award-winning barrister and specialist in gender-based violence, spoke of the disparity in 'rough sex' being used in defence after a person dies.

She said: "It seems as though it is so-called 'rough sex gone wrong' or a bad sex game, as we are seeing more and more frequently.

"Although this isn't a defence as such set out in law it is certainly becoming more commonplace for male killers to use this defence when they kill women. I say that because there is not one case, as I understand, in this country where a woman has killed a man because of rough sex.

"What we know is that over 60 women whose killers have been men and used this defence. It is very much a gender crime used by men to excuse their violence and some of the most hideous abuse such that they lose their lives.

"In my view, it is completely wrong that the courts even acknowledge that this can be used to mitigate the violence that is being used on a regular basis."

The Northern Echo: Sophie MossSophie Moss

And former minister for women and equality Harriet Harman has written to the Attorney General demanding that the sentence is reviewed.

She wrote: "This sentence fails to reflect the gravity of the crime, the impact of her death on her family, including her two young children, his sole culpability for her death, his cynical shifting of the responsibility from himself to her and sends out the message that killing your girlfriend during sex is a minor matter.

"I'd be grateful if you would refer this case for the Court of appeal as I believe this is an unduly lenient sentence."


In a passionate victim impact statement, Miss Moss' brother, James, said: “We will never be able to shake the belief that whatever the nature of their relationship, and her role in it, that she was a victim – taken advantage of and exploited - and was subjected to an entirely avoidable an infinitely tragic end."

The Northern Echo: Harriet Harman MPHarriet Harman MP

Judge Paul Watson QC, the Recorder of Middlesbrough, sentenced Pybus to four years and eight months at Teesside Crown Court.

He said: "I find that this was a case in which you were voluntarily intoxicated, unable to judge the situation and perhaps to have stopped when it was obvious that you had gone too far."