A judge has rounded on a defence lawyer over remarks on a sexual assault victim’s impact statement contending these all now say the injured party, “can’t walk, can’t talk, can’t sleep and can’t eat”.
Patrick Michael David Bell (40) from Woodburn Crescent, Dungannon denied sexually assaulting the female during an incident on January 12, 2020 but was convicted at contest.
Dungannon Magistrates’ Court heard the victim was at a friend’s house and Bell was there with a number of others.
She felt uncomfortable and intimidated, describing Bell as “extremely intoxicated – one minute very aggressive and the next, joking”.
He proceeded to put his arm around her head and rub his lips across her face. She moved away, but he grabbed her by the hair, pulling her back several times.
Bell then “fell onto the victim”, putting both legs over hers and placing his left hand on her inner thigh.
He stroked her back under her clothing, touched her chest then “put the victim in a headlock and licked her mouth”.
She managed to break free and run from the house and a relative contacted police.
Bell was arrested, remaining silent during police interview.
Several months later a woman contacted the victim stating she had discussed the incident during a telephone conversation with Bell, who contented “it isn’t rape if she liked it”.
The contest was heard earlier this year and District Judge Michael Ranaghan convicted Bell before adjourning for pre-sentence reports.
On return to court, a victim impact statement was submitted, and in response to an enquiry by Judge Ranaghan, the defence barrister confirmed he had seen this, adding: “In all these statements now the injured party can’t walk, can’t talk, can’t sleep and can’t eat.”
The judge immediately cut in warning: “Do not comment on the content of a victim impact statement. You can object to portions of it but you cannot give your opinion.”
The defence retorted: “When persons claim they are severely psychologically affected there is a judgement which states medical reports should be provided.”
Judge Ranaghan advised he was well aware of the judgement and would factor the appropriate weight to attach.
The defence continued by advising any sentence the court may impose will be appealed, to which Judge Ranaghan remarked: “That’s a very bad point to lead off with.”
The defence concluded: “I have no submissions to make.”
Addressing Bell directly, the judge said: “This was very serious offending, although it’s the first sexual conviction on your very extensive criminal record. Your behaviour was no doubt frightening and disgusting.”
Imposing a sentence of five months custody, Judge Ranaghan added: “This is immediate imprisonment with no prospect of suspending.”
A prosecuting lawyer applied for a Sexual Offences Prevention Order (SOPO) which included a condition banning Bell from being with any female aged under 18. Objecting, the defence described this as, “disproportionate and completely unnecessary”.
While six other conditions were also sought, Judge Ranaghan rejected the requirement for a SOPO as, “I think this was a one-off. Despite his significant criminal record, I don’t think the defendant poses a risk of sexual offending.”
However Bell was made subject to sex-offender registration for seven years.
After spending around 30 minutes in the cells, he was released on bail pending appeal.