Belfast Telegraph

Mother beaten by husband just three days after daughter's birth tells of her relief as he's jailed

(stock photo)
(stock photo)

By George Jackson

A mother who was brutally attacked by her husband just three days after giving birth to their daughter has spoken of her relief after he was jailed.

Kerry Armstrong (35), a mother of two, was punched in the face and kicked on the head by Gary Peoples, and had to crouch to protect her newborn child.

Yesterday Ms Armstrong, a playgroup leader from Langtry Court in east Belfast, said she could never forgive Peoples (40).

Peoples admitted assaulting her causing her actual bodily harm and also pleaded guilty to assaulting her 13-year-old daughter in the same incident which occurred on October 2, 2017.

Peoples, a printer worker from Clonduff Drive in Belfast, inflicted facial swelling and bruising on his wife and minor bruising to her daughter - his stepdaughter - during the assaults.

After her husband was jailed for 20 months by Judge Elizabeth McCaffrey at Londonderry Crown Court, Ms Armstrong said she was relieved that the judicial system had worked for her.

She encouraged anyone who was in a domestic violence situation to report it immediately.

"I am glad that the judicial system has worked for me in this case," she said.

"It has been quite a long time since this happened and it has been hard to get to this point. At times I just wanted to give up, but I was determined to go through with it on behalf of other women who have suffered and who are still suffering from the effects of domestic violence."

Setting out the facts of the case, a prosecuting barrister said that three days after the birth of their daughter, Ms Armstrong and Peoples had an argument in the bedroom of their flat.

Peoples punched her on the face and after she fell to the floor he then kicked her to the head.

Seconds before the attack Ms Armstrong had her new born baby daughter in her arms.

She crouched over the baby in order to protect her during the assault. When her 13-year-old daughter came into the bedroom, Peoples grabbed her and pushed her up against the bedroom wall.

The prosecutor said Peoples initially prevented his wife from leaving their home but she eventually got out of the front door and drove to her mother's home, from where her brother reported the assaults to the police.

Peoples was arrested but made a 'no comment' interview.

The barrister said there were several aggravating factors in the case.

She said Ms Armstrong was vulnerable, having just given birth three days earlier and she should have felt safe in her family home. The prosecutor said Peoples also kicked his wife on the head as she lay prone on the floor and he assaulted his stepdaughter.

A defence barrister said Peoples accepted it was a terrible way for him to behave towards his wife so soon after she had given birth to their daughter. She said he was genuinely shameful and remorseful and he has not seen his daughter, who is now 18 months old, since the incident.

The barrister said although there was no previous domestic violence history between the couple, their relationship was a difficult one.

"There was a very short romance before the marriage," she said. "Tensions were at times running high and the defendant bottled things up. He did not deal with things appropriately and he snapped.

"It was an out-of-character incident and one he will have to live with for the rest of his life."

Judge McCaffrey said the contents of the victim impact statements made by Ms Armstrong and her daughter showed the impact the assaults have had on them. She described Peoples' actions as abhorrent and said society utterly rejected such offences.

"The message must go out that people who commit such crimes will receive condign punishment," she said.

Outside court, Ms Armstrong praised the support she has received.

"I want to thank in particular Women's Aid in Belfast," she said.

"Without their help and counselling and without the help of other domestic violence sufferers whom I have met and befriended I couldn't have gone through with it.

"They gave me amazingly fantastic assistance. Until this happened to me I didn't really appreciate the extent of the levels of domestic violence in Northern Ireland.

"Now I know and the women whom I now know who have been victims and who have come through it make me feel so humble," she added.

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