Dad enforced five-metre rule and kitchen time slots during divorce

Peter Copland, 66, has been convicted of controlling and coercive behaviour
(Picture: Nick Irving of Exeter)

A dad has been convicted of controlling and coercive behaviour after introducing strict rules on his family while going through a divorce.

Peter Copland, 66, made his wife and children stay five metres away from him and created allocated time slots for when they could use the kitchen.

The retired engineer brought in the extreme measures as he and his wife Maria broke up after 33 years of marriage.

Copland was found guilty of controlling and coercive behaviour and a charge of assaulting his now ex-wife after a trial at Exeter Magistrates’ Court.

Magistrates said: ‘We realise this was a very difficult period for all involved.’

The court was told Copland initially sent his wife an email outlining the rules, which she said she agreed with to avoid confrontation.

But the magistrates concluded this was not a practical and pragmatic approach to the divorce and was ‘inflexible and became intimidating and domineering’.

The children were supposed to knock on the door before entering, and his daughter said her dad introduced a two-metre rule before extending it to five metres.

The retired engineer brought in the extreme measures as he and his wife Maria broke up after 33 years of marriage (Picture: Nick Irving of Exeter)

But the bizarre measures caused a great deal of tension within the family home in Paignton, Devon, and Copland was also accused of assaulting his former wife twice in one weekend in August last year.

He was said to have pushed her backwards after a row in the kitchen where his 18-year-old son went in for a drink – during Copland’s time slot.

Copland claimed he brushed past his then wife who was blocking his exit, but then said he did push past her but she lost her balance and fell over.

The argument led to the son throwing a drink Fanta over his dad’s head, who apparently gave him a ‘sinister smile’.

Copland denied assault on Maria but said he did go into the room ‘in the heat of the moment’ which led to the Fanta incident.

Another confrontation with his former wife came two days later after his daughter entered the kitchen during his slot to grab some keys from a drawer.

Copland pictured outside Exeter Magistrates’ Court (Picture: Nick Irving of Exeter)

After one row he went to their lounge – what was called their ‘safe space’ – and paraded around and taunted them in a childish way.

But Copland told the court his family ‘antagonised and provoked’ him and he only had one room in their large barn conversion, which was an en-suite master bedroom.

He said he worked away in Saudi Arabia to pay for the £5,000-a-month mortgage and his family did not welcome him home, hug or respect him when he came back.

Copland added the house had a smaller kitchen where the family could have made snacks and coffee, but they ‘invaded my space’.

The dad, who has no previous convictions, said of his email: ‘I put everything down logically. Maria could have responded but never did.

‘I have been a loving father for many years. They have not wanted for anything. Respect is a big thing in life.’

The prosecution accused Copland of using ‘harsh words’ against his family and acting in a childish way.

Ex-wife Maria told the court: ‘I just wanted him to leave us alone.’

She was accused of ‘persistently breaching the kitchen rules to antagonise him’, and she replied: ‘He would say that wouldn’t he.’

She further denied trying to get him out of the house before it was sold.

Copland, now of Coalville in Leicestershire, was bailed to appear for sentence next month. He was cleared of one charge of assault on his former wife.

The court heard their home has now been sold and their divorce finalised.

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