An Armagh man is to appeal a six month prison sentence for assaults on his ex-partner less than three months before she tragically took her own life.
A victim impact statement, written by the deceased 20-year-old’s heartbroken mother – said her daughter “often suffered night terrors, during which she would wake screaming from sweat soaked sheets reliving the harrowing ordeal, she experienced”.
In sentencing the 27-year-old, District Judge Steven Keown stated: “In my view your focus at all times was to accept the bare minimum of responsibility that you thought that you would get away with.”
Anthony Cauldwell, of Drumbreda Gardens, appeared for sentencing on possession of an offensive weapon and two counts of common assault against his ex-partner at Enniskillen Magistrates’, sitting at Omagh, on Wednesday.
A prosecuting barrister outlined that the facts were based upon the statement and body worn account which had been made by the now deceased Portadown woman.
It was heard, that on July 14, last year, the injured party had been at her home in Portadown having a drink with the defendant, whom she was in a relationship with at the time, when an argument broke out.
During this argument, the injured party stated that Cauldwell had grabbed her by the throat. It was at this point she told him she was going to bed.
As she was leaving the living room, the defendant once more grabbed her by the throat and pushed her against the door, where he held her in place for approximately five seconds, before she pushed him off.
The court heard the couple then argued for a further five minutes, before Cauldwell grabbed his keys and went to get into his car.
Having concerns about Cauldwell driving, as he had been drinking, his partner got into the driver seat of the vehicle and tried to convince him to return inside.
Cauldwell did go back into the house but later returned with what the injured party described as a “kitchen knife”, which he placed in the driver side pocket of the car before he got into the driver seat.
The defendant then began to drive the vehicle down Ashgrove Road with his partner inside, and as he did so the she claimed that he had made threats against her.
At one point, the injured party grabbed the steering wheel of the car in order to force it into a layby in a desperate bid to stop and try to get out.
Cauldwell got out and went to the passenger side door to prevent the her from exiting; she in turn attempted to get out the other side of the car.
The defendant then opened the passenger door and tried to grab the injured party, in doing do he clipped her right eye, causing bruising.
Cauldwell then dragged the woman out by grabbing her waist and her arms; this left her with grazes to both her knees and her right foot.
A third party witnessed the struggle and challenged the defendant, asking him, “do you think you are a big lad” before Cauldwell got back into his vehicle and drove off.
This witness helped the injured party and called police to the scene, where they took bodycam footage of her account, and photographs of her injuries.
Prosecution outlined that Cauldwell had denied all offences but on the day of the contest made admissions to a single account of common assault, namely that he had pushed the injured party and nothing more.
Prosecution also reminded District Judge Keown of his comments at a prior hearing, on how the defendant had made a “cynical account” seven months after the offence, in order to “minimise” his involvement.
A victim impact statement, written by the injured party’s mother, was also read aloud in the courtroom earlier today.
In it she wrote: ” This victim personal statement should be composed by my daughter, but she’s no longer with us. After the events of July 14, 2019, my beloved daughter took her own life – on October 9, 2019.
“The attack left her with cuts to her eyes and painful bruises to her body. This left it difficult for her to rest and sleep. She became very depressed and the stress caused her to suffer from alopecia. In the weeks after the attack, depression, alopecia and lack of sleep, caused her to withdraw from her friends and social interaction.
“She became terrified at the prospect of leaving the house on the occasions when she managed to get to sleep she often suffered night terrors, during which she would wake screaming from sweat soaked sheets reliving the harrowing ordeal, she experienced.”
The injured party’s mother claimed that her daughter had been the victim of “intimidation on social media, by the friends and family” of the defendant.
This intimidation included a photo in which Cauldwell is shown “wielding an axe”, which prosecution provided to the judge.
The victim’s mother wrote that she was “hugely proud” of her daughter, but that on October 9, “believing she could no longer continue the struggle”, took her own life.
She added: “I have been left bereft of my daughter, one of my best friends. The children she would have had, and the precious moments that we would have shared together over the years that were to come.
“Her father is left heartbroken and will never have the opportunity to walk her down the aisle; her siblings have lost a wonderful sister and friend. The impact on [my daughter] as the victim, and then her family and friends, is the worst imaginable. We pray for the strength to continue on, without her”.
Defence barrister Scott McWhinney stated: “Your worship I am cognizant that there are members of the victim’s family in court, and I will try to tread as gently as I can, around any matters that I’m dealing with.”
Addressing the photo of his client with an axe, he said that the photo had been posted not by Cauldwell himself but by a friend.
The barrister stated: “My understanding is that was not intended to be seen by the victim, the victim’s family, or anything like that. And it was, as I say, an ill-judged decision at its height by the defendant.”
Mr McWhinney informed the court that the defendant’s only previous convictions had related to motoring matters and that he was currently carrying out an apprenticeship to become a baker.
He also stated: “He has had more than suicidal ideation at times in recent history, he has in fact had attempts on his own life which did require inpatient treatment.
“While that did not require in-patient treatment at a psychiatric facility, it certainly is concerning to this man and his family that this is something he still struggles with.”
Mr McWhinney added: “Mr Cauldwell mustn’t be forgotten, he was in what he reports to be a happy relationship with this individual for some time.
“Whilst, given the findings of the court, I would make the point that Mr Caldwell is very saddened by the turn of events that happened.
“He never wished any harm, certainly he would never have wished any kind of distress in the way that has occurred to the family.
“I would note the contents of the victim impact statement by the injured party’s mother. I would ask your worship not to draw too stringent a connection between the tragic turn of events.”
District Judge Keown stated: “This is obviously a very serious case, which was contested in almost all fronts. As I said previously, in my view your focus at all times was to accept the bare minimum of responsibility that you thought that you would get away with and in the probation report confirms that you continue to deny the offences.
“The probation report, as I’ve indicated, highlights a number of concerns that they have such a lack of victim awareness and empathy, and lack of responsibility for your actions, as well as a list of other issues of concern that probation have in relation to your involvement in these offences”.
He continued: “In terms of the assault guidelines there are aggravating features. You had a weapon in your possession at the time of the second assault, which the victim knew.
“In the first assault, those attempted strangulation and these offences obviously occur in the context of domestic violence.
“There’s also, in my view, additional degradation of the victim or set it in the aggravating factors by the fact that she was effectively dumped barefooted on the side of the road and far from home.”
Cauldwell was sentenced to six months in prison for the offences before the court.
Mr McWhinney made it known that the defendant wished to appeal the sentence and he was released on bail pending this.