A woman who was terrorised by her controlling ex has called for tougher sentences for stalkers after he walked free from court.

John Pennington, formerly of Abbeyfield Drive in West Derby, received a 13 month sentence, suspended for 18 months, for stalking causing fear of violence at Preston Crown Court on Tuesday, November 21. It was not the first time he was rapped for harassing former girlfriends - in 2019 he received a two-year prison sentence for stalking a mum-of-three, breaching a non-molestation order to bombard her with messages and even attaching a secret tracking device to her car.

In April 2022, the 41-year-old, who now lives in Scarborough, was given another two-year sentence for new stalking charges relating to a different woman.

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One former girlfriend, who says she was also victimised by Pennington, said: "Everyone would say he appeared charming at first, but things quickly changed and he became very controlling, obsessive and wouldn't let me move.

"It's clear he hasn't learned his lesson. He's had two visits now to prison, and he's lucky that this (sentence) has been suspended. When will he learn his lesson? What will he have to do to get another prison sentence and not be released early?

"Although the police can do the legwork, the courts don't seem to back it up with a bigger sentence. If he gets two years he'll be out in 10 months. So he knows it's easy."

Harassment and stalking are classed as offences under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. The maximum sentence for someone convicted of stalking involving fear of violence, serious alarm or distress is 10 years. But Pennington was this week given a suspended sentence, meaning he was allowed to walk free on the condition he does not commit any further offences for 18 months. If he breaks the law again during that time, he may be recalled to serve his sentence in prison.

His former partner said the "easy" sentence was "part of a wider problem" of underestimating the devastating effects of stalking.

She said: "You can see that the sentence really does not reflect the crime. Nobody understands how stalking changes your life. I have no life now. Everyday things like going to the park, going to the shop, are difficult. You're always nervous and hypervigilant. Everyday things seem impossible, even just meeting with friends. I'm always worried he's going to turn up, and since he's breached restraining orders in the past they clearly don't mean anything to him. I think tougher sentences are needed."

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