A senior Labour councillor has resigned after he was convicted in court of assaulting his wife, smashing the glasses off her face and leaving her with a bloodied lip.
Walworth councillor, Dan Garfield, hung his head in the dock at Camberwell magistrate’s court on Tuesday morning as his tearful estranged wife, also a Southwark Labour councillor, read out her own victim statement.
As Southwark Labour’s chief whip, responsible for keeping party members in line, Mr Garfield’s departure has left the group in turmoil, triggering the third by-election since its sweep to victory in May last year.
The court heard harrowing details of how on the night of November 8 this year Mr Garfield had attempted to slit his wrists, leading to a confrontation between him and his wife. Mr Garfield struck her twice across the face, and also stood on her feet and pulled her hair.
As his wife bravely read out her witness statement to the court she recalled how she felt when she waited for the police outside their shared home in Boundary Lane, Walworth.
“I was humiliated when the police came to our flat and I felt like a failure. Standing outside bare foot in my pyjamas in the middle of the night, I felt like you had made a fool out of me,” she said.
“I replay the events over and over in my head,” she continued, “…it hurts every single day.”
She spoke about her determination to keep attending council meetings but said this had become impossible when Mr Garfield insisted on turning up when he knew she would be there. “[it] left me very exposed. Facing our friends and colleagues, I’ve been placed every day in a vulnerable position,” she said.
In sentencing Mr Garfield, Magistrate Vanessa Baraitser said: “The nature of the assault is serious because you struck the victim twice in the face, which is a particularly vulnerable part of the body, so hard that you caused her lip to bleed and her glasses to be damaged…” adding that she would also need to take account of a previous incident last year in which Mr Garfield received a police caution for another assault on his wife
The court heard how Mr Garfield has been seeing a psychotherapist to address the underlying causes of his behaviour before he was sentenced to a twelve month community order. He will be required to complete a programme of 40 days with the probation service and pay £430 to the court, including £130 to be refunded to his wife to pay for her broken glasses.
In the light of his conviction and his subsequent resignation, Mr Garfield has been suspended from the Labour Group and is now the subject of an investigation by them to see if he is fit to continue as a party member.
“Domestic violence is not acceptable and we will not tolerate it,” said Cllr Peter John, Southwark Council Leader. “It is right that Dan Garfield has accepted responsibility and resigned from the council.”
Asked why Mr Garfield was awarded a position of such high authority within the party after the first police caution for assaulting his fellow Labour councillor wife, Cllr John said: “When I was made aware of a police caution I offered my full support to [Mr Garfield’s wife]. Following this discussion, and assurances that they were both receiving necessary support, I felt it was right to allow those involved to deal with this as a private family matter.”