Jacqueline Bywater, pictured outside Teesside Crown Court today, assaulted both herself and her son James, 37, with a knife in her despair as he drank heavily in their living room
A struggling mother who ‘flipped’ and stabbed her son and herself over his heavy drinking has been spared prison, as the judge commends her for sticking with his ‘eccentric and excessive’ behaviour through ‘thick and thin.’
Jacqueline Bywater, 58, assaulted both herself and her son James, 37, with a knife in her despair as he drank heavily in their living room.
She reached breaking point having tried her best to help her son, despite the fact he had stolen from her, Teesside Crown Court heard on Monday.
She cut him with a knife, causing superficial wounds, on June 2.
He later died from causes linked to his drinking, unrelated to the assault.
Ms Bywater spent seven anxious weeks behind bars for the first time in her life on suspicion of attempted murder – a charge of which she has now been cleared.
Judge Stephen Ashurst told her: ‘Like all parents, you loved your children, and James despite his many difficulties.
‘You were simply unable to cope with his behaviour.
‘It was not only eccentric and excessive but compounded by his drinking. He presented problems at home that any other parent would have found impossible to deal with.
‘You stuck by James through thick and thin.
‘So preoccupied and overwhelmed were you by his difficulties that you failed to appreciate how your own mental health had been affected.
Jacqueline Bywater reached breaking point having tried her best to help her son, despite the fact he had stolen from her, Teesside Crown Court heard on Monday
‘All parents are forgiving. You had to forgive an awful lot in terms of the disruptive and often upsetting behaviour of your son.
‘He treated you very badly and failed to appreciate how much you cared for him.’
Mr Bywater had long-standing issues with alcohol which led to numerous verbal arguments with his mother over the years.
She was heard shouting with blood on her hands on the kitchen floor at about 2pm.
She called the police saying she had stabbed her son and herself, said prosecutor Rachel Masters.
Mr Bywater had a puncture wound to his upper chest and a cut to his stomach. The injuries were cleaned and closed at hospital.
He later said he did not want his mother prosecuted, and later died from ‘matters entirely unrelated to this incident’.
Ms Bywater, of Redcar, was arrested and remanded in custody on suspicion of attempted murder – a charge she always denied.
She was formally acquitted of this charge after the prosecution accepted her guilty plea to the lesser charge of unlawful wounding – her first conviction.
Zahra Baqri, defending, said the sleep-deprived mother acted impulsively amid serious depression when she saw her son drinking heavily.
‘She flipped when she saw the state that her son was in. She said he was killing himself with alcohol abuse,’ said Ms Baqri.
‘She proceeded to cut her own arm. She told doctors she wanted to frighten her son in a desperate attempt for him to stop drinking.’
Agencies including mental health workers tried to help her son without success as he struggled with drug and alcohol addictions.
Ms Baqri said: ‘The defendant did everything to help him. She was a dedicated mother, so much so that she hardly found time for herself.
‘The cause of James’ passing was as a direct consequence of his addictions.’
‘Simply didn’t feel she could cope’
Ms Bywater suffered severe depression, serious bouts of anxiety, regularly self-harmed and tried to take her own life three times.
In 2015 she had bad depression because of James’ imminent prison release and she was concerned he would steal from her, as he had before.
She had serious depressive episodes and suicidal thoughts leading up to the assault: ‘She simply didn’t feel that she could cope.’
In the days beforehand she sought ‘refuge’ in her bedroom and was referred to the crisis team by her GP.
‘Ms Bywater accepts that she is in a very serious situation and will with grace accept the decision of the court this morning,’ said Ms Baqri.
She added Ms Bywater was clearly remorseful and the traumatic and frightening experience of almost two months remanded in custody in June to July was an ‘absolute deterrent’.
A consultant psychiatrist assessed her as a very low risk of reoffending.
Judge Ashurst told Ms Bywater: ‘You took a knife to James at a time when your levels of despair were especially high.
‘You did not intend to kill him and although you bitterly regret picking up that kitchen knife, the injuries you caused in wounding James were not particularly serious.
‘I make it clear to you that I’m not going to order you to return to custody today.’
He ruled it was an exceptional case where she reacted to extreme circumstances.
She was given a one-year prison sentence suspended for 18 months with 24 days’ rehabilitation activity ‘to assist you in rebuilding your life after this very traumatic event’.
Ms Bywater wiped her eyes and said ‘thank you’ as she left the courtroom.