A man jailed for assaulting his ex-partner after meeting her, in breach of a restraining order, to take her to Appleby Horse Fair, has apologised to a court for his behaviour in recent years.

Luke Connor made the apology, “to the court and the justice system”, after receiving an 18-month prison sentence at Durham Crown Court.

He appeared for the sentencing hearing via video link from nearby HMP Durham, where he has been on remand for seven months following his arrest for offences of assaulting his former partner, causing her actual bodily harm, two breaches of a restraining order and one count of breaching notification requirements as a previous sex offender.

The 41-year-old defendant, of Front Street, Burnhope, admitted the assault charge on the day of trial, but pleaded guilty to the various breaches at an earlier hearing.

The Northern Echo: Defendant Luke Connor apologised to a judge at Durham Crown Court for his behaviour in recent years

Martin Towers, prosecuting, said Connor had been in an on/off relationship with the woman in question since 2021.

But after previous offences, including assault, for which he was jailed, in January 2022, he was made subject of a restraining order prohibiting him from contacting or approaching her.

Despite that, Connor breached the order by ringing her frequently from prison, having used another inmate’s PIN to access a phone.

When he was released from that sentence, Connor resumed the relationship in a similar “on/off" fashion, and, in June last year took her with family members to Appleby Horse Fair, in Cumbria.

Mr Towers said about a week after their return, his partner became sick of his behaviour, and went to Burnhope to tell him it was over.

She found him sitting in his car drinking, but, seeing her, he got out of the vehicle.

In the confrontation that followed, he grabbed her phone and flung it away before punching her several times, mainly to the forehead, causing a number of swellings for which she was treated in hospital.

She suffered a haematoma to the forehead, widespread bruising and tenderness to the wrist.

In her victim statement, read to the court, she said she always felt like she was “living on the edge” when she was with Connor, and constantly feared she could do nothing right.

It made the formerly outgoing woman more introverted, choosing to stay at home rather than go out, as she would always be, “looking over my shoulder”, fearing she may see the defendant, in case he had been released from prison.

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The court heard the defendant’s record includes previous offences of violence and one of sexual activity with an underage girl, for which he served a four-year sentence and was made subject of indefinite registration as a sex offender, imposed in 2013.

Mr Towers said the breaches of the restraining order were the phone calls from prison and then taking the woman to the horse fair, in Appleby.

The breaches of the notification requirements were from August and October last year when police were looking for him and he failed to notify them of a change of address.

At the time he was said to be living at his brother’s home, having failed to inform the police of the temporary move.

Kelly Clarke, for Connor, said since his arrest he has remained in custody for almost seven months, during which time he has been able to reflect on his actions.

Miss Clarke said the reason he was not living at his home in late summer and early autumn last year was because he was assaulted there and did not want to remain at the address.

She said he has made the most of opportunities offered in his time in custody and is now an “enhanced prisoner’, having passed several courses and held various work positions.

Miss Clarke said during his time in prison he has suffered a family bereavement and has done, “a lot of growing up”.

She told the court: “He just wants to get out of prison and get on with his life, to put this offending behind him."

Miss Clarke added that the assault was, “a spontaneous occurrence”.

Judge Nathan Adams told Connor: “Notwithstanding the fact that the restraining order was in place following previous offending against your partner, you called her repeatedly from prison, using another prisoner’s PIN, and, once released, contacted her again and met up with her for a matter of weeks in June last year.”

The judge said within weeks he had assaulted the woman, again, and then breached his notification requirements by not living at his home address.

He told Connor that given his history of breaches, it was just a question of how long his prison sentence should be for his latest offending.

Passing an 18-month sentence, he extended the restraining order by a further ten years and told the defendant it was his responsibility to keep away from, and not to contact his now ex-partner.

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Connor told Judge Adams that it was “over” with the complainant and he has no intention of contacting her again.

“I want to move on with my life and I don’t want to be in this position again."

He added: “I want to apologise to the court and to the justice system for my behaviour over the last three years.”