A County Armagh woman, who was subjected to horrifying abuse at the hands of her ex-boyfriend, has spoken of her relief following his sentence earlier this week.
Neil Byrne, of Mill Road in Mullaghbawn, was handed a three-year probation order at Newry Crown Court on Monday after pleading guilty to three counts of common assault, harassment, possession of ammunition without a certificate, criminal damage, and attempted criminal damage.
Further charges of kidnapping, criminal damage and possession of a firearm – charges the 28-year-old denied – were left on the books.
The victim, who wanted to remain anonymous, said that although the sentence appeared “a bit lenient”, he was handed the maximum term for a probation order and that “justice had been served”.
“A lot of people tried to bully and silence me over the last few years,” she said. “There was a lot of victim blaming going on, so I was just glad that finally the truth came out.”
The victim claimed he pointed a weapon at her, which she said “was the final straw for me”, however, Byrne denied this in court, and the charge was left on the books.
“It started out with little things; on nights out,” she said. “He was actually very charming at first, my family loved him but he’s just a typical abuser; very charming and then over time came the degrading comments, the odd push and shove that, me being young and vulnerable, didn’t pick up until it was too late. It then became a slap and a punch.
“It has been very hard since [the incidents]; I’ve had to seek a lot of counselling. He was violent and would threaten me a lot if I spoke up. I was told the police should be the last resort but I felt that was my only way out of that relationship.”
The woman said the first few times she would have forgiven him, but then there was one time she said she was left with a black eye.
“That was my lowest point, I was very deep in depression. I went home and told my parents what had happened and thankfully they were very supportive; they made me get straight on the phone.”
However, that wasn’t the end of it.
“There was a lot of harassment after that…[people] messaging me forward and back telling me I was a liar. I just had to stay strong through it. I’m in a better place now but I do think it’s important to get that message out there that although it’s not easy, it is worth doing.
“And I’m very relieved I did and now it’s over. I always thought I wouldn’t be believed because there was an incident where I was black and blue and there was one girl in particular – which I thought was devastating – saying that he wouldn’t hurt a fly. I was just thinking, who is going to believe me when there’s people making these assumptions?”
She added: “My family told me the truth will come out. The PSNI did a really good job of getting all the evidence together and in the end he did plead guilty.
“I just feel relieved justice has been served. A big thing for me was the three-year probation, which means it won’t happen to another girl, hopefully.
“I wouldn’t be able to live with myself, to have it on my conscience, if I thought another girl would go through the trauma that I’ve gone through just because I didn’t speak up.”
The young woman, who is now in a healthy relationship said she suffered from depression and was even treated for PTSD.
“I think it’s very, very important for girls to know that it’s a long journey but when you get there it’s worth it. These fellas can be very charming in public but what went on behind closed doors was very traumatic, but it’s over now and I am moving on with my life.”
As well as a three-year probation order Byrne was handed a community service order of 60 hours and a restraining order banning him from being in any sort of contact with his victim until February 2027.