Imagine, if you will, the following:
You're a management consultant aged 25, married to a medical student.
You get married in June 2006.
On September 19th 2006 you find that your wife hasn't made your sandwiches for the next day, so you slash her foot with a knife and then beat her up when she protests.
On September 20th 2006 she tries to talk to you about what happened and you beat her up again.
Eight days later, when you find your favourite palm-tree print shirt is unironed, you grab the hot iron and press it twice against your wife's back, branding the steam holes into her skin.
Your wife is so scared of you that she doesn't call the police or go to the hospital. Her friend tells the police what happened, and even then she is so frightened of you that she has to be summonsed to court to give evidence under threat of arrest for contempt.
You tell the police that your wife is "self harming", and then later you concede that it is "possible" that you might have attacked her but you "can't remember".
You maintain this bollocks through a three-day jury trial at the end of which you are convicted of 3 counts of causing actual bodily harm.
Gentle Reader, what sort of sentence do you think you might get after beating and torturing your wife over a period of ten days, lying about it to the police, subsequently half-admitting it, compelling your terrified wife to give evidence against you in court and costing the taxpayer three days of court time that it can ill-afford?
The judge said it was the circumstances of the marriage that had provoked Read and... now those circumstances had gone, sending him to prison would 'help no one'".
No prison, no suspended sentence, not even a community sentence lest it eat into your working hours.
You get a £2000 fine.
Which is fine, because you're earning £90,000 a year.
Abusive husbands and partners take note: if your wife doesn't iron your favourite shirt when you tell her to, £2000 buys you the right to brand her with the iron.
Which is a perfectly reasonable thing to do. If you, like Colin Read, were provoked by the "circumstances" of your marriage.