Belfast Telegraph

Domestic abuse accused McDonagh in tears as bail is ‘absolutely refused’ by judge

A man who absconded while accused of domestic abuse more than a year ago wept at Dungannon Magistrates Court when a judge refused to re-grant bail after a Christmas drinking binge
A man who absconded while accused of domestic abuse more than a year ago wept at Dungannon Magistrates Court when a judge refused to re-grant bail after a Christmas drinking binge

By Staff Reporter

A man who absconded while accused of domestic abuse more than a year ago wept at Dungannon Magistrates Court when a judge refused to re-grant bail after a Christmas drinking binge.

Police were alerted after his grandfather, with whom he resides, wanted him removed.

John Stephen McDonagh (22), of Sydney Lane, Aughnacloy, is charged with assaulting his former fiancee on December 14, 2017, and damaging her clothing.

Now with a new partner, whom he said is pregnant, McDonagh's pleas did not impress District Judge John Meehan due to the contempt shown to the court against a backdrop of serious alleged domestic abuse.

The case was delayed when McDonagh skipped bail shortly after his first appearance. A warrant was issued, and in March he presented to have it executed.

That hearing was told the victim had withdrawn her statement, making Judge Meehan suspicious. While a defence solicitor accepted the allegations were domestic, he emphasised the withdrawal statement.

Judge Meehan replied: "Surprise, surprise. So the defendant turns up a few days later to have the warrant executed and that's the end of it? No. Once a suspected perpetrator of domestic violence, charged with attacking a woman, gets the chance, it's game on.

"They know the best chances to persuade victims to withdraw is by sustaining the closest possible guard on her.

"This is perhaps one of the most serious instances for failing to appear on the specimen charges - given what has emerged - this court has dealt with."

But McDonagh was back in the dock after police were called by his grandfather seeking his removal. He was intoxicated, a breach of bail conditions.

A police officer expressed concerns of potential reoffending as well as previous convictions, breaches of bail and a court order. A defence barrister said his client initially understood the withdrawal statement ended the matter, but now realises it didn't and he is not excused from adhering to bail conditions.

The defence explained the Christmas breach happened after four relatives arrived from Dublin, all of whom were drinking.

McDonagh joined in against his grandfather's wishes, who then called police and asked officers to remove him.

The defence said the grandfather was happy to have McDonagh return.

But Judge Meehan ruled: "Bail is refused. There are too many risks. This is a case in which the defendant absented himself for some months until the injured party made a withdrawal statement, only presenting after believing he was no longer charged.

"He absented again and was not found until November. Bail involved residence with his grandfather, where such was his behaviour police were involved to remove him."

At this, McDonagh summoned his lawyer, who said: "My client wishes me to point out he is in a new relationship and his partner is pregnant. He wants to be with her at this time."

But Judge Meehan said: "Bail is absolutely refused."

McDonagh then broke down in tears. The case will be mentioned by video-link next month.

Belfast Telegraph

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