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Judge queries why man denies ‘absolutely everything’ despite pleading guilty to assaults

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A Donaghcloney man who, despite pleading guilty to two counts of common assault, has been handed a suspended prison sentence for continuing to deny “absolutely everything” in relation to the offences.

Aaron Ashley Follis, of William Street, who appeared before Craigavon Magistrates’ Court on Friday, was told to “stop drinking and get a job”.

Reading from a pre-sentence report, District Judge Bernie Kelly said the 28-year-old, who was handed a four month prison sentence, suspended for two years, “does not accept that he assaulted either party and stated that he did not have the chance to contest the charges”.

Outlining the facts, the prosecution said that at approximately 1.30am on February 20, last year at 1.30am, on Steps Road, Magheralin the injured parties – a male and a female – were walking with a friend along the pavement when they saw a car parked outside the primary school.

As they passed the vehicle the defendant – Follis – opened the first passenger door and got out. He shouted at the victims, ‘why did you give me the finger?’ The male victim said, ‘stop, we don’t want a fight’ to which Follis replied, ‘faggot! You’re a faggot’.

Follis then lunged at the victim with his fist clenched. The victim stood back against the fence before a female, who was with Follis, got out of the vehicle. She managed to get him back into the car.

The female victim started to walk away and had her mobile phone in her hand. Follis got out of the vehicle once again and ran after the victim who then pressed record on her mobile phone.

She started to record and Follis demanded the phone. He then lunged towards this victim and grabbed her by the neck. The victim raised her hands to protect her head and the defendant pushed her to the ground where dropped the phone. She fell onto the ground with the defendant still holding her. Whilst on the ground Follis pulled her hair and held her to the ground.

He was then restrained by the other victim and a passer-by. Eventually the defendant left the location and police were called.

Judge Kelly said: “This is a very difficult sentencing exercise because of the contents of that pre-sentence report. He has denied absolutely everything in that report despite his plea of guilty and despite the fact a video shows a large part of what went on – and he has seen that video – but he’s still denying it.”

Defence solicitor Aaron Thompson argued: “So much of the case is based on the video but that part (which the defendant  denies) is not on the video. There’s an argument and a bit of a scuffle and coming together but we don’t see anybody on the ground. The phone does come out of a hand somewhere; it’s dark.

“He’s pleaded guilty for the right reasons, he accepts that he is guilty. He was drunk and is not a perfect historian about this incident either so I’m not holding his account out as bulletproof in terms of what he said did, or did not, happen.”

He added: “There’s no punching and kicking, or there’s no physical violence in the standard way, it’s all drink-fuelled and stupid and very, very fast acting.

“He’s brought trouble to his partner – who is pregnant – trouble to himself, caused harm to these injured parties and he’s apologetic for it and I have to agree he hasn’t acquitted himself very well in that report.”

Judge Kelly, in passing down her sentence, said: “What he seems to have completely ignored is the fact that, because of his intoxication, his memory is not great. Instead of saying there’s a possibility my memory’s bad because of the amount of alcohol I had taken, he goes the other side and says these people are all telling lies; they’re all making this story up, I’m not guilty and I didn’t do it.”

She concluded by telling Follis to stop drinking and get a job.

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