A BUSINESSMAN convicted of a catalogue of coercive and controlling behaviour towards his police officer wife spanning a period of five years in Inverclyde and elsewhere has been spared prison.

Russell Laing was handed an unpaid work order after Greenock Sheriff Court was told that he refuses to accept the nature of his conduct - something dismissed at a sentencing hearing as an 'attempt to evade responsibility'. 

Laing was found guilty in December of a course of threatening or abusive behaviour towards his estranged spouse - who now works for Interpol in France - during the breakdown of their near-20-year marriage.

He committed the offences between May 2015 and March 2019.

Laing, 51, whose trial took almost a year to conclude, paid off around £40,000 worth of gambling debts with a critical illness payment received by his wife from Police Scotland after she was diagnosed with cancer.

The complainer previously told the court that Laing claimed he was 'entitled' to the money because he had 'bankrolled' her hospital treatment through his successful garage business's medical insurance.

Greenock Telegraph: Russell LaingRussell Laing (Image: NQ)

Evidence sessions included testimony from the victim's sister, who claimed Laing was a 'controlling person', but Laing denied he was an 'overly suspicious or jealous man' who would repeatedly 'insert himself into a position of control'.

The trial heard that Laing joined a 'girls' trip' his wife went on to Wales in May 2015, during which he joined the all-female group claiming he made the 300-mile, three-and-a-half-hour journey to 'bring her a change of clothes'.

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He denied spying on his wife after viewing a personal email about a job with Interpol, and branded the suggestion that he was monitoring her movements, social media and messages as 'ridiculous'.

Accusing his wife of lying during her evidence, he said: "In my opinion there are a lot of things that have been portrayed in a different way."

The woman told the trial that Laing is a 'pathological liar', while a prosecutor previously said that she had 'stayed with him at her cost' and 'abuse was a path she walked down regularly'.

At a sentencing hearing last week, first offender Laing, of Bridge of Weir, was described as being at low risk of reoffending.

However, Sheriff James Varney said he was concerned by part of a background report which referred to Laing's 'inability to accept that the nature of the behaviour was coercive and controlling'.

Sheriff Varney said: "That is no more than an attempt to evade responsibility for your actions.

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"This was a fairly long, protracted period of offending.

"I consider it imperative to address this to prevent further harm to other partners.

"You have engaged in a catalogue of coercive and controlling behaviour that will have a long-lasting psychological impact on the complainer."

The sheriff said Laing has led a 'full and positive lifestyle' in most other matters to date, and said custody was 'not the appropriate option'.

Laing's solicitor, who said it was 'important to point out that these are non-contact offences', told the court: "He accepts completely that this relationship is now in the past.

"He wishes to resolve the civil matters and put these events behind him."

Laing must complete 150 hours of unpaid work within a year and he has been placed on a 12-month supervision order.

A two-year non-harassment order was also imposed requiring him to refrain from contacting the complainer in any way.