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Man who ‘broke down door’ and assaulted ex-partner jailed for nine months

In under two hours the injured party reported getting 27 calls from the defendant in which he was asking her what she was doing and who she was with

Armagh Magistrates Court

A man who damaged his ex-partner’s door before proceeding to assault her has been sentenced to nine months in prison.

Court heard that these offences were committed by the 26-year-old just 11 days after being given a suspended sentence for similar offending.

Ruari Gawley, of Cloughmore Park in Rostrevor, appeared to contest a single charge of common assault at Armagh Magistrates’ Court, sitting at Newry, on Tuesday via videolink from Maghaberry.

The defendant had previously indicated pleas to breaching a restraining order, harassment and criminal damage.

Called to the stand, the injured party claimed that on September 26, at 5am, she received a call from a withheld number. When she answered the voice she heard was that of her ex-partner, Gawley.

Between that time and 6.50am, she reported getting 27 calls from the defendant in which he was asking her what she was doing and who she was with.

Some time later, the injured party heard the alarm sound at her back door and she came downstairs to find Gawley banging on her kitchen door.

He broke down the door and began walking towards her. She called 999 and began to run out the front door of the property.

The injured party told court she was “terrified” of the defendant, whilst outside she stated Gawley grabbed her throat as he made attempts to take the phone off her.

She claimed that she shouted at passersby but Gawley told them that there was nothing wrong but she had managed to contact police and they arrested the defendant.

Defence barrister Scott McWhinney put it to the injured party that his client had attended the house after receiving a call from her in which she stated she wanted to renew the relationship.

He further stated that Gawley had been in the property having a conversation with the injured party prior to this incident.

The injured party commented that her back door would not have been damaged if she had wanted the defendant in her home.

Mr McWhinney stated that his client claimed that he had attended the property to obtain his bank card which was at the address and the injured party was withholding from him, something which she denied.

Further to this, the barrister also said that it was the case of his client that he did not lay a hand on his ex-partner during this exchange.

District Judge Bernie Kelly interjected that this would be a “frightening” experience for any single parent, adding that the fear of violence is enough to prove a common assault charge.

Next called to give evidence was the defendant. He claimed that at around 3.15am he had received a call from his ex-partner in which she said she wanted to “sort things out and get back together”.

Addressing the calls to the injured party, Gawley claimed that this was regarding his bank card which was at her address.

He told court that the injured party had stated repeatedly that he was not getting his card, and when he attended the house he claimed that his ex-partner had been showing the card at him through a window.

Gawley admitted shouldering the door open, and said as he gained access he observed the injured party run into the street and spotted his bank card on a kitchen counter.

He claimed his ex-partner had been “causing a scene” in the middle of the street shouting phrases such as “you tramp”.

Gawley stated: “I didn’t want an argument, she called the police, the police arrived and I was arrested…you can ask the officers when they arrested me. I was cool, calm and collected. I was not in any form of anger.”

Ruling on the contested charge, District Judge Kelly stated: “I am asked to believe that somewhere in between 3.15 and 3:30am she called him basically begging him to come back.

“Mr. Gawley does not say, you know what I’m going to need my bank card there doesn’t appear to be any reference to a bank card….. then he starts calling somewhere in around five or shortly thereafter in the morning, a total of 27 calls all of which are documented. Those calls not receiving the response he wanted, Mr Gawley turns up and invades the property.”

She continued: “I am meant to believe that in this particular setting that all his interactions with the injured party are completely normal or completely reasonable or completely without any threat or any suggestion that she was put in fear.”

District Judge Kelly convicted Gawley of common assault, and was further informed by the prosecution that these offences were committed in breach of a suspended sentence.

She pointed to how the defendant had committed these offences just 11 days after being the previous sentencing.

Mr McWhinney stated: “I’m cognizant of the court’s view of cases of domestic violence. What I will say from Mr Gawley is he has spent some five, five and a half months by my reckoning real time in custody.

“Obviously there’s no credit in the case where one fights to the bitter end as it were and requires the injured party to give evidence.”

Commenting that the ordering of a presentence report would only increase the length of time Gawley spent in custody, District Judge Kelly sentenced the defendant to nine months in prison.

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