The attorney general is considering appealing a prison sentence of less than five years imposed on a man who suffocated his lover to death during sex.
Sam Pybus, 32, was sentenced to four years and eight months for the murder of Sophie Moss, angering women’s rights activists.
A court heard that Pybus put “prolonged” pressure on Moss’ neck during consensual sex at his Darlington home in the early hours of February 7.
The mother-of-two was found unconscious and naked by police in her bed, and later died in hospital.
Pybus – who was married but had seen Miss Moss for three years – told the court her casual lover would encourage her to strangle her during sex.
The court heard that Moss lived alone and had a history of alcohol abuse and had physical and mental health issues.
Judge Paul Watson QC, sentencing him at Teesside Crown Court, accepted that the married defendant did not intend to kill and that his remorse was genuine. He had previously pleaded guilty to manslaughter.
We Can’t Consent To This, a campaign group set up in response to “brutal sex” defense claims used against women, said the conviction sent a “terrible message to women.”
Spokeswoman Fiona Mackenzie said: “It seems that strangling a woman to death is still viewed by law as an unfortunate accident, rather than terrible, serious violence.
“It sends a terrible message to women – four years and eight months is an outrageous sentence for killing a woman.”
Ms Mackenzie added that this year “strangulation has become a specific offense” and the government has made it clear that “allegations of brutal sex should not be used by perpetrators to evade justice.”
Leading trade unionist Harriet Harman confirmed on Twitter that she referred the case to the attorney general for consideration as being unduly lenient.
Ms Harman wrote to Attorney General Michael Ellis QC to ask the Court of Appeal under the unduly lenient sentencing scheme.
She said: “This sentence does not reflect the gravity of the crime, the impact of his death on his family including his two young children, his sole guilt for his death, his cynical transfer of responsibility from himself to her and sends the message that killing your girlfriend during sex is a minor matter. “
A spokesperson for the attorney general’s office said: “We have received a request that Sam Pybus’s case be considered under the unduly lenient sentencing program.
“Only one request is needed for us to consider whether a sentence is too low.
“Lawyers have 28 days from conviction to review the case and make a decision on the referral of the sentence to the Court of Appeal.”
Pybus was initially charged with murder, but the court heard from an Home Office pathologist found that the strain on the neck of the vulnerable mother-of-two was at the bottom of the cases that resulted in death.
The pressure could have been applied for tens of seconds or even minutes, the court said. There was no sign of other violence used or evidence of a fight.
On the day in question, Pybus had drunk 24 bottles of Amstel lager in 10 hours, and after his wife went to bed, he drove to the 33-year-old’s apartment.
At 4:43 a.m. on February 7, he then went to Darlington Police Station and told staff he believed he had strangled Moss in his apartment.
He told detectives that during their occasional sexual activity, he applied pressure to her neck, “an act he said she encouraged and enjoyed,” the court said.
Pybus, of Water View, Middleton St George, Darlington, told police he could only remember coming in her underpants and finding her unconscious. He told detectives that he “must have strangled her but he couldn’t remember doing it.”
The accused did not provide first aid and instead went to his car and pondered what to do for 15 minutes before going to the police station.
Detectives conducted extensive investigations and found no evidence of an argument or any reason for Pybus to harm Ms Moss, the prosecution said.
The claim that she encouraged strangulation during sex was supported by her longtime partner, the court said.
Her brother James Moss, on behalf of the family, issued a victim impact statement, saying: “She was cheerful, vibrant, funny, talented and fearless, unless she saw a spider.”
Sam Green QC, defending, told the meetings that Pybus did not feel self-pity “but feelings of self-loathing and the difficulties of living with what he had done”.
After the hearing Christopher Atkinson of CPS North East said: “Although the accused always recognized the fatal consequences of his actions, he also asserted that he never intended to cause harm. serious harm to Sophie or, as was tragically the case, her death.
“We have to make it very clear that the prosecution did not simply accept the account presented by the accused, but that we proactively determined that there was not enough evidence capable of establishing beyond that. of any reasonable doubt that he intended to cause serious harm or death to Sophie Moss.
“In cases where death is caused by an unlawful act, but such an intention cannot be proven, the appropriate charge to lay is that of manslaughter, for which we have built a strong case against the defendant. “