A BULLYING 37-year-old man who threatened to smother his partner to death and later held a pillow down over her face as she slept, has been jailed for three years.

Lee Coleman, formerly of South Cerney, has become the first person in the South West to be convicted under a new law introduced last December to protect people from controlling and coercive partners.

Gloucester Crown Court heard yesterday he had always tried to keep tight control of partner Amanda Scrivens during their 12 year relationship but things came to a head in January.

The couple fell out over Ms Scrivens' wish to take over the tenancy of a pub in South Cerney - something Coleman initially supported but then turned against.

He abused and belittled her, telling her she had no grasp of finances and would never manage to run the pub on her own. In his efforts to make her 'toe the line' he threatened to kill mum of four Ms Scrivens by smothering her, the court was told.

The judge, Recorder Jeremy Barnes, told Coleman: "I am entirely satisfied that you intended her to believe you. That caused her fright and terror.

"You then sent her a text about keeping one eye open when she slept. That was intended to reflect the threat you had already made. She must have been terrified.

"Then in the early hours of the next morning you went into the bedroom where she was sleeping with her two young boys and you placed a pillow or cushion over her face. You held it there for some seconds.

"I accept you had no intention to kill her or cause serious harm. But you did it as part of a campaign of coercive and controlling behaviour to intimidate her and make her toe the line or leave you."

Maintenance man Coleman, who had kept all but £500 of Ms Scrivens' wages each month, had denied using controlling or coercive behaviour and also one charge of common assault.

He was convicted of the coercive behaviour charge by a jury but cleared of assault.

However, he had also pleaded guilty to another charge of common assault on Ms Scrivens.

The court heard he had 22 previous criminal convictions including two for domestic related incidents, one of them against Ms Scrivens in 2004.

Recorder Barnes said there were no guidelines about sentencing for the new offence but the maximum penalty was five years.

He said he therefore assessed the seriousness of Coleman's offences as meriting a sentence of three years and he passed a three month concurrent sentence for the assault offence.

He made a ten year restraining order banning Coleman from contacting Ms Scrivens and her children.

After his conviction the court heard that Ms Scrivens has now gone ahead with her plan to run the pub and has given up her other jobs - one of which was cleaning houses on the Lower Mill Estate where Coleman worked.