Times caption: Berlinah Wallace was jailed for a minimum of 12 years
A piece in today’s Times by John Simpson, Crime Correspondent:
A former fashion student whose ex-boyfriend chose euthanasia after she doused him with sulphuric acid has been jailed for life.
Berlinah Wallace, 48, woke up Mark van Dongen to tell him that “if I can’t have you no one can”, before throwing a glassful of acid over him, causing horrendous injuries, in an act that the judge described as “pure evil”.
Wallace was jailed for life with a minimum of 12 years at Bristol crown court yesterday after being found guilty of throwing a corrosive substance with intent in September 2015. She had been cleared of murder and manslaughter.
Mr Van Dongen, 29, an engineer, had his lower left leg amputated and was left paralysed from the neck down, blinded in his left eye and scarred across 25 per cent of his body.
He chose to die at a clinic in Belgium, where his family live, because of what doctors described as his “unbearable physical and psychological suffering”. The trial heard evidence he had recorded in his hospital bed, in which he was only faintly audible.
Mrs Justice Nicola Davies told Wallace, a South African: “Your intention was to burn, disfigure and disable Mark van Dongen so that he would not be attractive to any other woman. It was an act of pure evil.
“You chose your moment for the attack. Mark van Dongen, wearing only boxer shorts, was asleep in the bed which you had shared in your flat. Vulnerable, almost naked, he awoke but had no real opportunity to avoid the focus of your acid attack, namely his face and then his body.”
The judge said that Wallace had bought the 98 per cent concentration sulphuric acid to attack Mr Van Dongen in Bristol because he had left her for another woman.
The judge told her: “Having carried out this horrific attack you then told lie after lie.” Wallace had claimed throughout her trial and recent retrial that her victim had brought her the sulphuric acid in a glass, saying it was water, with the intention that she drink it. She claimed that she had thrown it over him thinking it was water.
Kees van Dongen, the victim’s father, said after the sentencing that the 12-year minimum term was too short. “I never knew she was like this and it turns out she really pulled the wool over our eyes from day one,” he said.
A criminal law solicitor criticised Mrs Justice Davies for allowing the jury to consider verdicts of murder and manslaughter. David Corker, of Corker Binning, said: “The charge of murder in this circumstance was wrong in law and the judge should have so ruled. The proper charge was either attempted murder or GBH with intent.” [J4MB emphasis]
So, firstly, we have a female judge. Maybe a coincidence, maybe not. But why did the CPS bring charges of murder and manslaughter? Even a charge of attempted murder would surely have been wrong. All three charges carried the distinct possibility of Wallace walking away from court a free woman, which was surely the intention of the CPS in the first place.
GBH with intent would have been the appropriate charge, the maximum sentence for which is life imprisonment. It was the charge made against Dr Balvinder Mehat after he allegedly circumcised a boy without obtaining the permission of the mother, who had sole parental responsibility for the boy, and had since his birth, because she and the boy’s Muslim father had separated before the boy was born. The CPS dropped the charges, but following an appeal by a leading human rights lawyer they are due to report shortly on whether they will again bring charges against Mehat and the boy’s parental grandparents.
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