Saturday 22 July 2017

Judge adjourns 'ferocious' assault case after receiving anonymous letter

Robert Maguire (34) pictured leaving Dublin Circuit Court this afternoon (Pic Collins Courts)
Robert Maguire (34) pictured leaving Dublin Circuit Court this afternoon (Pic Collins Courts)

Conor Gallagher and Sonya McLean

A man due to be sentenced today for "ferociously" beating his ex-girlfriend has had his case adjourned after the judge received an anonymous letter suggesting that the accused should be "sent away for life".

At a sentencing hearing last March, the Central Criminal Court heard the 30-year-old woman woke up in her bed to find Robert Maguire (34) standing over her and spitting on her. He threatened to kill her before kicking her in the genitals and beating her into unconsciousness as her children screamed at the bedroom door.

Mr Justice Paul Butler previously adjourned the case having heard the evidence. He ordered a probation report after Michael O'Higgins SC, defending, submitted that he be assessed for community service. Counsel asked if society would be best served by sending the accused to prison.

The judge said at the time it was a “very, very serious assault” and that the seeking of a community service report should not be been seen as an indication of his final intentions.

Maguire, of Colthurst Gardens, Hunting Glen, Lucan in Dublin pleaded guilty to assault causing harm and false imprisonment in the woman's Dublin home on January 14, 2012.

Today Mr Justice Butler said that he noticed there was a lot of publicity surrounding the case in March and there had been interviews on the fact that Maguire may not get a jail sentence.

He commented that he had to put the case back for a probation report because the defence team had asked him to consider community service and he couldn't consider that without an assessment by the Probation Service.

The judge said he also received an anonymous letter from a member of the public “more or less telling me what a terrible person the accused is” and how he should be “sent away for life”.

Mr Justice Butler told Mr O'Higgins to consider the letter. The judge said it put him in “a very difficult position” and advised counsel to get instructions from his client as to whether he wanted him to continue presiding over the case.

Counsel replied that he thought the case was poorly reported in the media and described it as being “without context and grossly unfair to my client”.

Mr Justice Butler said he wasn't criticising the reporting of the case and added that the letter was “not from the media”.

Mr O'Higgins responded that the letter may have been affected by what was read in the media and said it was a cause of great concern that “the media would take a slant on a case and exert an influence”.

Grainne O'Neill BL, prosecuting, said she had considered the letter and had taken an instruction from the Director of Public Prosecutions. She said the DPP felt there was no reason why Mr Justice Butler couldn't continue to deal with the case.

The judge accepted that but said the defence needed time to consider its position before he remanded Maguire on continuing bail to July 3 next for mention.

The woman previously told the court that both her and her eldest child, who was nine at the time, have been left severely traumatised by the attack. She wrote in her victim impact statement that the “consequences of the assault have had a far reaching impact.”

“I need to feel safe in the knowledge that they won't go unnoticed. I have to put my trust in the courts and the law of the land to protect me and my family.”

Maguire had been in an on-again, off-again relationship with the woman for over ten years before they broke up for good in late 2011. He was the father of three of her children.

Mr O'Higgins said the motive for the attack was that Maguire had found out the woman was in a new relationship. He said it was a case of “sexual jealousy.”

“It doesn’t come within a million miles of justification but might help court to understand why behaviour occurred,” Mr O'Higgins said.

The victim wept at the back of the court as Garda Mairead Scanlon described how she was asleep in bed when she received “a bang” to the face and saw Maguire standing over her, spitting and shouting.

He hit her and pushed her back down on the bed when she tried to get up. He then kicked her in the side.

At this stage the woman's baby, who was in a cot in the room, started crying and her older children were at the bedroom door screaming. The woman realised Maguire had locked the bedroom door.

He wouldn't let her go to the baby. Instead he picked the baby up from the cot, opened the door and gave her to the oldest son.

The woman was screaming for help or for someone to call gardaí when Maguire locked the bedroom door again and told her he was going to kill her “stone dead”. He then started kicking her until she went unconscious.

A next door neighbour had heard the screams and called gardaí but Maguire had fled by the time they arrived. The woman was taken to Tallaght Hospital but had to return the next day as the wait was long.

She was treated for extensive cuts and bruising including to her genital area where Maguire had kicked her. Maguire was later arrested and admitted the assault.

The court heard Maguire has several previous convictions including one for theft for which he received 240 hours community service.

Mr O'Higgins said it was a “ferocious but brief” attack which must have been humiliating for the victim. He said Maguire was offering an “unequivocal apology” for his actions.

Counsel said Maguire works as a tiler and now has a new partner. He said his client was ashamed and embarrassed about his actions and that he entered an early guilty plea.

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