Friday 23 March 2018

Girl (7) 'told university professor dad to stop hitting mum', court hears

Juan Augusto
Juan Augusto

Paul Higgins

The seven-year-old daughter of a former university professor had to ask her father to stop punching his wife, a judge was told yesterday.

The eldest daughter of 51-year-old Juan Augusto saw him punch his wife in the face several times, Downpatrick County Court heard.

Julie-Ann Augusto
Julie-Ann Augusto

But prosecuting lawyer Laura Ievers also alleged "there was an attempt to strangle, there was kicking, there was stamping and it was a sustained incident".

Ms Ievers said the little girl told police in a recorded interview that she saw her father striking her mother. She "told him to desist and not only did he stop, but he immediately expressed remorse and phoned the emergency services", the prosecutor said.

The court also heard there were allegations that Augusto tried to "pull her teeth" and that she was "rendered unconscious" in the alleged strangulation.

Earlier this year, the defendant, originally from Argentina but now living on the Belfast Road in Comber, pleaded guilty to causing actual bodily harm to his wife, Julie-Ann Augusto, on August 13 last year.

He was handed a three-month jail term by Deputy District Judge Sean O'Hare. Augusto was released on bail pending an appeal scheduled for yesterday, but he came to court carrying a suitcase prepared to go to jail should the sentence remain in force.

The Argentinian academic now works as a computer science professor at Middlesex University after a number of years teaching at Ulster University, where he lectured students and helped PhD researchers.

Mrs Augusto was set to give evidence against her husband until defence QC John McCrudden told Downpatrick County Court that the appeal could proceed "on the papers" using written evidence.

While Ms Ievers contended that other evidence from doctors, A&E consultants and police officers supported the allegations made by Mrs Augusto, she told the court "there's still an issue over the minutiae of that which is alleged".

Mr McCrudden said it was the defence case that Augusto struck his wife "four to five times with punches", but conceded that was also "reprehensible behaviour".

The senior QC submitted that "it certainly would not be to the betterment of the relationship or good of the children or anyone else to have this unfortunately flawed marriage rehearsed again in court", so the appeal against the sentence could proceed without oral evidence.

While Judge Piers Grant said "I entirely agree that it's highly undesirable" to air the matters in a public court, he asked how the court could "properly assess the veracity of that evidence without a proper hearing".

Adjourning the case, the judge urged the prosecution and defence to "see if they can achieve an agreed statement of facts".

Mr McCrudden told the court that during the adjournment, there would be efforts to identify any programmes which Augusto could participate in because "domestic violence must be rooted out by the attitude of the court and by rehabilitation".

The judge granted Augusto continuing bail, but warned that his release may only be temporary and said it did not mean that "you will not necessarily serve a custodial sentence".

"People should know that we will not tolerate the assault of women in any circumstances whatsoever," he added.

The judge said he would fix a date for the appeal tomorrow.

Belfast Telegraph

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