Zimbabwean charged with sexual assault on woman outside club is denied bail
A Zimbabwean man alleged to have sexually assaulted a woman outside a nightclub was refused bail yesterday.
Pondai Bamu, who has a master's degree in human rights law from Ulster University, is said to have attacked the woman in Belfast last September.
The 38-year-old, who was arrested after the alleged incident, was seeking bail on the grounds of a change in circumstances.
Belfast Crown Court heard the alleged victim made a similar complaint against a foreign national 10 years ago, when she was 15, claiming that a Polish man sexually assaulted her at a party.
When the case went to trial, it was halted because of inconsistencies in her evidence.
A Crown prosecutor told Judge Gordon Kerr QC that the two cases were "very different".
In the latest alleged incident, the woman claimed she was with her friend at a nightclub and was "very much the worse for wear". CCTV caught her stumbling outside before she came into contact with Bamu and his friend.
The prosecutor said Bamu's friend could see the woman was drunk, so he helped her contact her mother, who rang the alleged victim's boyfriend to tell him to pick her up. The Crown claimed Bamu and his friend then parted ways, after which the defendant dragged the woman into a doorway and sexually assaulted her.
The court was told that after the woman's boyfriend arrived, he chased the defendant off, after which his description was circulated, and he was later arrested at his brother's house in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, England.
Opposing bail, the prosecuting barrister said there was a "very clear risk of flight".
However, Bamu's lawyer denied that claim and said his client, who he described as a "highly educated man", could not return to Zimbabwe because work he completed on a government project had put his life at risk. He is also a refugee.
The barrister told Judge Kerr he was applying for bail for his client because of a change of circumstances linked to the woman's previous case, during which, it was alleged, she lied.
Telling the court that was the issue of consent was the "central point" in the latest alleged incident, the defence lawyer added: "In this particular case, the issue of consent has been severely weakened because of the previous allegations made by the complainant.
"The previous case was ultimately not proceeded with due to significant inconsistencies in her evidence.
"That would strengthen our position and severely weaken the complainant's credibility and honesty in relation to these offences."
After listening to submissions from both the Crown and defence, Judge Kerr said he could not see that there had been a change in circumstances and that the evidence in the current case "had not changed".
Concluding, he told the court: "Bail is refused."