Woman tried to strangle young boy twice

Kerry Fenton

Kerry Fenton

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A university manager tried to strangle a young boy on two separate occasions after plunging into severe depression, a court heard.

Kerry Fenton, 43, behaved ‘completely out of character’ when she committed the attacks on the youngster, who cannot be named for legal reasons.

Fenton, who was suspended as leader of the Postgraduate department at Lancaster University following the claims, has pleaded guilty to two counts of wilful assault.

Prosecutor Francis McEntee said: “These are matters that came completely out of the blue contrary to all of the character of those that knew her.

“On each occasion the attempt made was not followed through. On the first occasion there was nothing to stop the attempt other than the protestations of the child.

“She was compelled to act in the way she did because of these severe depressive episodes she was suffering from.”

Preston Crown Court heard how Fenton, of Byron Avenue, Warton, near Preston, first attacked the primary school child on July 29 last year and again on February 22.

Mr McEntee added: “There’s no doubt that the acts were committed not simply while the defendant was ill but because she was ill and they would not have been committed otherwise.”

Fenton, who has a Master’s degree, worked at the University of Central Lancashire before spending the last eight years in a senior position at Lancaster University Management School.

Her barrister Kim Hollis QC said Fenton has since been referred to a psychiatric hospital, where she was being assessed.

She said: “It’s my submission to the court that this is not a restriction type case, bearing in mind her recent recovery and how she’s been doing quite well once she was moved and her medication changed.”

Fenton had previously pleaded not guilty to two counts of attempted murder and was due to stand trial.

But lawyers on both side agreed the counts should lie on file following her guilty pleas to wilful assault.

Judge Jeremy Baker ordered further reports to be drawn up before Fenton is sentenced at a later date.

He said: “All sentencing options are open including a custodial sentence.”