Sunday 15 September 2019

Celine's brother: 'We've had the horrendous example of underwear being used in an attempt to mitigate'

Businesswoman Celine Cawley was killed in December 2008
Businesswoman Celine Cawley was killed in December 2008
Conor McCrave

Conor McCrave

The brother of Celine Cawley, who was brutally killed in her own home, says there are major shortcomings in how the justice system treats victims.

Ms Cawley was just 46 when she was bludgeoned to death by her husband, Eamonn Lillis.

Chris Cawley said during trials “insidious and unhelpful” remarks are made try to mitigate what was allegedly perpetrated.

He was critical of the incident in the controversial Cork rape trial where the complainant’s underwear was brought up by the defendant’s defence.

“The statistics give a strong evidential base to say there is a serious issue around violence towards women,” he said.

“It is really important to bring awareness to the enormity of how women are particularly vulnerable.

“A narrative that is primarily focused on the defence case, and, of course, there has got to be strong defence, but a defence case in an adversarial legal system is what gets the narrative.

“Therefore, very insidious and unhelpful things emerge from these that create the perpetrator as trying to mitigate what the perpetrator did.

“We’ve had the horrendous recent example of underwear being used in that regard and its attempt to mitigate,” he said.

Ms Cawley’s death was high-profile at home and abroad as she was a former model, who appeared in James Bond movie, and ran a successful film production company.

Mr Lillis beat her over the head with a brick during a row at the family home in Howth, Co Dublin, in 2008.

“Celine was a wonderful, successful, greatly loved, unique individual,” Mr Cawley said.

“Tragically, what happened to Celine, as well as being an individual criminal event, also sits as part of a health issue and much more particularly a systemic cultural issue,” he said.

“It really distressed me at the time but what we were hearing was a defence case and that is the legal system,” he said.

The family of Ms Cawley was attending the Women’s Aid Femicide Conference.

A report by the organisation has revealed 225 women have died at the hands of men since 1996.

Also at the conference, a brave Dublin woman told of the years of vicious abuse she faced at the hands of her ex-boyfriend.

Jessica Bowes said: "He fractured my skull, my eye sockets. He broke my nose, shattered my cheek bone. He continued to kick and punch me."

She said: “He showed up at my house. He blocked my car in the drive. He followed me around in traffic. He followed me to the school. He came to my job. He was absolutely relentless. He was everywhere.”

At a gathering of domestic abuse victims and their supporters, Ms Bowes laid bare the physical and emotional scars of over five years of assaults. Notably, she opened her testimony with a plea to newly appointed Garda Commissioner Drew Harris, calling for reform in how An Garda Síochána treated domestic violence.

“When he was appointed to Garda Commissioner, I googled him to see what kind of a leader he was,” she said.

“He once said ‘crime is not like rain, it does not fall evenly on us all, crime is particularly hard and particularly prevalent on those who are vulnerable on our society’.”

But shortly afterwards she told of her experience with local gardaí who responded to her calls, yet failed to arrest her attacker despite a barring order in place.

“Within 24 hours, he breached the order by breaking into the house. I called the guards. They refused to arrest him.

“I rang the sergeant. I was absolutely furious I couldn’t believe they weren’t going to arrest him. The sergeant from my local garda station arrived and still there was no arrest made. He was laughing at me in front of them.”

By the end of her emotional speech, Jessica was still looking for answers as to why gardaí never took her seriously.

“My experience of the guards was that they didn’t always respond to my calls in a time that was acceptable given the threat that I was under.

“They didn’t always record my calls on the Pulse system. There were no door-to-door enquiries following my assault. They didn’t check the area for CCTV, although a number of my neighbours did have cameras.”

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