Former UUJ professor’s daughter asked dad to stop punching his wife

The case was heard in Downpatrick
The case was heard in Downpatrick

The seven-year-old daughter of a former University of Ulster professor had to ask her dad to stop punching his wife, a judge heard yesterday.

According to the defence case, the eldest daughter of 51-year-old Juan Augusto saw him punch his wife in the face approximately three times but prosecuting lawyer Laura Ievers also alleged “there was an attempt to strangle, there was kicking, there was stamping and it was a sustained incident”.

Ms Ievers said the little girl’s interview with police officers was video recorded and in it she said she saw her father striking her mother but she “told him to desist and not only did he stop but he immediately expressed remorse and phoned the emergency services”.

Downpatrick County Court also heard there were allegations that he tried to “pull her teeth” and that she was “rendered unconscious” in the alleged strangulation.

Earlier this year Augusto, originally from Argentina but now living on the Belfast Road in Comber, pleaded guilty to causing actual bodily harm to his wife Julie-Ann Augusto on August 13 last year and was handed a three-month jail term by Deputy District Judge Sean O’Hare.

He was however released on bail pending appeal and that was scheduled to happen on Tuesday but Augusto came carrying a suitcase prepared to go to jail in case the sentence was affirmed.

The Argentinian academic now works as a computer science professor at Middlesex University after a number of years teaching at Ulster University, where he lectured students and helped PhD researchers.

Until defence QC John McCrudden told Downpatrick County Court that the appeal could proceed “on the papers,” Mrs Augusto was set to give evidence against her violent husband.

While Ms Ievers contended that other evidence from doctors, A&E consultants and police officers supported the allegations made by Mrs Augusto, she told the court however “there’s still an issue over the minutiae of that which is alleged.”

Mr McCrudden said it was the defence case that Augusto struck his wife “four to five times with punches, that’s the gulf” but conceded that was also “reprehensible behaviour.”

The senior QC submitted that “it certainly would not be to the betterment of the relationship or good of the children or anyone else to have this unfortunately flawed marriage rehearsed again in court” so the appeal against the sentence could proceed without oral evidence.

While Judge Piers Grant said: “I entirely agree that it’s highly undesirable” to air matter in a public court, he asked how could the court “properly assess the veracity of that evidence without a proper hearing”.

Adjourning the case, the judge urged the prosecution and defence to “see if they can achieve an agreed statement of facts” and emphasised to Mr McCrudden and to Augusto the issue of pleading guilty at an early stage in order to obtain full credit.

The defence QC told the court that during the adjournment, there would be efforts to identify any courses or programmes which Augusto could participate in because “domestic violence must be rooted out by the attitude of the court and by rehabilitation”.

Judge Grant warned the defence that while the lower court did not address the issue of compensation, “I will want to know something of the appellant’s means” when the case is before the court again.

Ordering Augusto to stand up in the dock, the judge granted him continuing bail but issued a stark warning that his release may only be temporary and did not mean that “you will not necessarily serve a custodial sentence.”

“I make it absolutely clear to you that I consider any offence of domestic violence towards any woman, is in my view repugnant and is something that in accordance with guidelines of the Court of Appeal, must be dealt with on the basis of condign and deterrent sentences,” declared Judge Grant. “People should know that we will not tolerate the assault of women in any circumstances whatsoever.”

The judge said he would fix a date for the appeal this Thursday but excused Augusto from attending that day.