A Zimbabwean man who did a Masters degree in Human Rights Law at the University of Ulster and who is facing charges linked to the sexual assault of a woman in Belfast, has been refused bail.
Pondai Bamu – who was described by his barrister as a “highly educated man” – is facing two offences arising from an alleged incident outside a city centre nightclub last September.
During the bail application, it emerged that the 38-year-old, whose address was given as Johnstone Mews in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, cannot return to his native Zimbabwe due to work he undertook on a project into government conduct which put his life at risk.
The application was made on the grounds of a change of circumstances. Belfast Crown Court heard that the woman who made the complaint against him made a similar complaint against a foreign national around 10 years ago. When that trial went to court, the case was halted as there were too many inconsistencies in her evidence.
In the first case, the complainant was 15 and claimed she was sexually assaulted by a Polish man at a party.
Regarding the current allegations against Bamu, it is the Crown’s case that he sexually assaulted her in the early hours of September 24, 2015.
A Crown prosecutor told Judge Gordon Kerr QC that the two cases were “very different”. Regarding the alleged incident last September, the prosecutor said the 24-year-old complainant was with her friend at a nightclub and was “very much the worse for wear” when she left.
She was seen on CCTV stumbling about before she came into contact with Bamu and his friend. The prosecutor said Bamu’s friend felt the woman was drunk, and he helped her contact her mother who in turn contacted her boyfriend who came to pick her up.
Bamu and his friend then parted company, and it is the Crown’s case that Bamu “dragged” the woman into a doorway where he sexually assaulted her twice.
Bamu’s barrister denied there was any risk of flight, as his client cannot go back to Zimbabwe, and said that due to a lack of papers and his status as a refugee, Bamu “has to stay in the UK”.
After listening to submissions, Judge Kerr said he didn’t find there was a change of circumstances and that the evidence in the current case “has not changed”.