Sean McWhinnie burned down stepson's tent during 'terrifying' camping trip
A "TERRIFYING" camping weekend culminated in a Totton man attacking his stepson, driving a motorbike at him and burning down his tent, a court heard.
The "violent, bullying behaviour" by Sean McWhinnie (41) towards Luke McWhinnie left the youngster suicidal and suffering sleepless nights, Southampton Crown Court was told.
Prosecutor Anne-Marie Critchley said the defendant, who lives at Jackie Wigg Gardens, was camping with 20-year-old Luke and the youngster’s girlfriend in a farmer's field in Stockbridge between 7th and 10th August last year when things turned sour.
After an argument erupted over a motorbike Luke owned, McWhinnie’s "appalling behaviour" started when he picked up two flashlights and used them to assault his stepson, Ms Critchley said.
"He also punched Luke on the jaw with his left hand, then was seen to hit him with his right hand on the other side of his face," she continued.
"Then he went off and he got [Luke’s] motorbike – which Luke had driven down. He drove it at Luke McWhinnie so that he was pushed into a thorn bush area and Luke sustained multiple nasty-looking scratches.
"After the assault the arguing continued and Sean McWhinnie, after threatening to do so, burnt down their tent and in effect burnt the accommodation Luke and his girlfriend were staying in and most of their belongings that were in it, which destroyed them."
Days later at his home, the defendant burnt more of his stepson's clothes, Ms Critchely said, adding he was "settling the score".
The damage McWhinnie did to his stepson’s property totalled £1,732, the court heard.
"This was a terrifying camping weekend," the prosecutor said.
Prior to the trip McWinnie also assaulted Luke at his home address, punching him in the jaw and setting on him with a scaffolding pole, Ms Critchley said.
The prosecutor said McWhinnie had done "psychological harm" to his stepson – who reported he left his job because McWhinnie kept threatening to turn up to his work.
Luke, who is about to become a dad, reported feeling suicidal and anxious and has moved from the Southampton area to get away from his stepfather.
McWhinnie pleaded guilty to a charge of criminal damage for the burning of Luke’s clothes.
He denied arson and assault occasioning actual bodily harm in relation to the camping trip but a jury found him guilty on both counts.
Defending, Timothy Compton handed up medical reports and references to the judge and urged him to spare his client jail.
He explained that it was clear McWhinnie suffered from a host of conditions and was "on the [autism] spectrum", which he said drove his behaviour.
He said it made him "quick to anger" with "very limited powers of empathy" and an "intolerance of other’s views".
Mr Compton added: "Putting him in the prison environment serves no real purpose. It would be disastrous to for him on many levels, specially a personal one, and will not address any of the difficulties under which he labours."
Judge Nicholas Rowland agreed, handing McWhinnie a 21-month jail term suspended for two years. He also told McWhinnie to pay Luke £500 compensation.
"If that is the end of the relationship between you two then you only have yourself to blame,” Judge Rowland told McWhinnie. “This was violent bullying behaviour by you towards Luke."