Belfast Telegraph

Tyrone church burglary accused an 'elective mute', court told

By Staff Reporter

A judge has criticised a claim by a defence lawyer that his client is deaf-mute, after it transpired he can both hear and speak - but "chooses" not to.

Yesterday, a prosecution lawyer read a statement from a prison officer, which detailed the accused conversing freely.

Abraham Jakobovits (41), with a last known address of Fortwilliam Gardens, Belfast, but currently remanded in custody, is accused of breaking into two churches in Fivemiletown, Co Tyrone.

It is alleged he entered Clogher Valley Free Presbyterian Church and stole a Sony camcorder and £500 in coins.

He then allegedly entered St Mary's Chapel - just a short distance away - with intent to cause damage.

The offences allegedly occurred between December 19 and 20 last year.

Having been arrested at a local hotel, where he was understood to have booked in posing as a doctor, enquiries revealed Jakobovits to be subject to sex offender notification requirements.

However, he failed to provide police with a satisfactory address from October 11 to December 21 last year.

On being brought to court for charging, Jakobovits became so disruptive, he was ordered to be kept in the cells for the duration of his hearing. Additional police were required to attend to bring the situation under control.

There was no application for bail as Jakobovits had been on licence following release from a prison sentence, which was revoked due to the new charges.

In June, the defendant was released into police custody for interview on his conduct at court.

This resulted in charges of assaulting a police officer, assaulting two prison custody officers, as well as damaging a court cell.

All matters are denied.

With a contest pending, a defence lawyer told the court that Jakobovits "claims to be mute and deaf, which appears to be intermittent".

The judge enquired how communication was generally conducted and the defence explained his client "can understand what is being said, possibly by lip-reading and writes his answers down".

He confirmed that Jakobovits does not understand sign language.

The judge suggested the contest go ahead with Jakobovits being asked questions and writing his answers down, then read to the court by a third party.

The defence agreed but felt this was "somewhat unsatisfactory".

But a lawyer appearing for the PPS said none of this was apparent from the file and it was the first time he had been made aware of any issues.

He said: "This has taken me somewhat by surprise.

"There are convictions in London and Dublin, yet I'm only told of this issue now."

He proceeded to read excerpts from a statement given by prison staff who escorted Jakobovits on December 22, when he allegedly erupted in fury.

This disclosed the defendant asked staff for items of property and on being refused under prison policy, became angry and abusive.

He pointed directly at one officer and asked when he would be leaving.

After hearing this the judge said: "So he can speak. It appears to be elective muteness.

"For whatever reason he chooses not to speak. That is entirely different to the case which was opened to me, claiming no powers of speech."

Ordering the contest to proceed later this month, the judge said Jakobovits will appear in person and "if he chooses not to speak that's his choice. The court will draw its own conclusions".

Belfast Telegraph

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