An innocent man was arrested six times after his ‘poisonous’ ex-girlfriend told a web of lies to the police, a court heard.
Lewis Jolly spent 81 hours in custody thanks to Courtney Ireland-Ainsworth, leaving him feeling like he’d be ‘better off dead’, the Liverpool Echo reports.
Ireland-Ainsworth set up more than 20 fake Instagram accounts to send herself ‘vile’ threats, then told the police that her ex-partner was the culprit.
The teenager cost him his job as she even provided a photo of what she claimed was a scar to her chest, inflicted by him with a utility knife.
But her ‘web of poisonous deceit’ was exposed when Instagram’s owners Facebook revealed the false profiles were in fact linked to her own email accounts and IP addresses.
Ireland-Ainsworth, now 20, of Brackendale, Runcorn, appeared for sentence yesterday (Tuesday) after admitting perverting the course of justice.
Mr Jolly was in attendance at Liverpool Crown Court as Paul Blasbery, prosecuting, read out a victim statement he made last June.
The 22-year-old said he dated Ireland-Ainsworth for two years, until their relationship ended in October 2019 on “okay terms”.
When she started seeing a new partner, he said “there was no bad feelings between us”, but in September 2020, she made the first of 10 false police statements.
Mr Jolly said: “I was charged with stalking offences and assaults that I had not committed. I was denied bail on one occasion and put before the court the next morning.
“I felt like I was very close to being remanded into custody for a crime I had not committed.”
The victim said being under investigation for four months was “the worst experience of my life”.
Mr Jolly said police repeatedly turned up at his family’s home in the early hours of the morning to arrest him, when officers searched the property and seized two of his mobile phones.
He said: “In between each arrest I lived in a constant state of anxiety, thinking that the police were going to arrive at any minute and arrest me again.
“I told police that I wasn’t behind these Instagram accounts and that I felt like I was being set up, but yet each time Ainsworth reported something, I was arrested again.
“I felt powerless and didn’t know how to protect myself from these allegations. I felt frustrated as it felt like no one was listening to me.
“At one stage I asked police to install CCTV in my address and to fit a GPS tracker to me, in an effort to prove my innocence.
“After my second mobile phone was seized by police, I decided not to get another one and no longer accessed social media or the internet. Other than going to work and occasionally going fishing, I stopped going out.
“I spent most of my time at home with my mum, so that I had an alibi for any future allegations.”
Ireland-Ainsworth told police her former partner was stalking and harassing her, had verbally and physically abused her, put a brick through her nan’s window, and threatened to stab her and her new boyfriend.
Mr Jolly said repeatedly getting arrested and detained in custody for questioning cost him his job.
He said: “This was frustrating for my employer. I explained to him that the allegations were malicious and that I hadn’t done anything wrong and at first he was understanding, but in the end he had to let me go as I was repeatedly missing work and having to attend court hearings.”
The victim said he lost earnings and was left out of pocket due to court costs and solicitor fees.
The experience had a “massive effect” on his physical and mental health, as he battled stress.
He said: “I lost weight as a result of this. It was affecting my sleep – I couldn’t relax. I found that I struggled to sleep and when I could, it was broken.
“I started drinking more in an effort to help relax me and help me sleep. I found myself feeling very emotional at times and would break down crying.
“I’ve suffered panic attacks. I found that I was agitated and jumpy, particularly at night, and if someone knocked on the front door.
“I found that when I was working, I couldn’t concentrate, my mind was elsewhere and this was affecting my work.
“At my lowest point I felt like life wasn’t worth living and thought to myself that I’d be better off dead.”
Mr Jolly went to see his GP, who prescribed antidepressants, and he was referred for counselling.
He said the experience left him with “no desire to be in a relationship”, it had a “huge effect” on his social life as he withdrew from friends and had no way of contacting them without a phone, and he didn’t like to go out in case he saw Ainsworth because he feared she might make further accusations against him.
As her lies continued he was hit with stringent bail conditions, including a home curfew from 7pm to 7am daily.
Mr Jolly said: “I felt ashamed and embarrassed because I had a stalking protection order against me and was having to walk around with a tag on my ankle.
“It was embarrassing having the police turning up on so many occasions to arrest me. I found that my neighbours started to look at me differently because of how many times the police have taken me away.
“Having the stalking protection order against me and having to go to court in relation to this made me feel like a weirdo when I hadn’t done what was alleged.
“For months my mum was keeping a record of my movements so that she could tell the police where I had been if I was arrested.
“It was arranged that a friend would pick me up from home and drop me off at work so that I would always have an alibi for where I’d been and what I’d been doing.”
Mr Jolly said his self-esteem was rocked, he became scared of police, and constantly feared his next arrest.
“As a grown adult this was very embarrassing and affected my self-esteem.”
He said the ordeal also impacted on his family, including his then 15-year-old brother, and sister, aged nine, who live with him and his mum, after he received threats and one of their windows was smashed.
Mr Jolly said: “Since then my sister has been on pins, she wouldn’t sleep in her own bed.
“I share a bedroom with my brother and every time the police arrested me our bedroom was searched, which invaded his private space.
“He was studying for his GCSEs at the time and was repeatedly woken up in the night when the police were arresting me and made to leave the bedroom while the police searched it.
“My mum has been off work with stress and anxiety – all linked to what I’ve been through. My mum, brother and sister have also received counselling.
“My dad had to take time away from his business to accompany me at court. This had a knock on effect and put him under financial pressure.
“The consequences of Ainsworth’s false allegations in this case really can’t be underestimated.”
Recorder Ian Harris said Ireland-Ainsworth had left her victim “a shell of the man he used to be”.
He noted how in a pre-sentence report, she said she “wanted to hurt” Mr Jolly and didn’t see that her actions were selfish.
The judge said he took into account her PTSD, which Ireland-Ainsworth blamed for her reaction to the breakdown of their relationship.
But he said there must be a deterrent custodial sentence as he handed her 10 months in a young offenders institution and made a 10-year restraining order to protect Mr Jolly.