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Sunday 18 November 2018

Anger as thug who beat his wife after she refused sex for cash is spared jail

Atilia Kerekes escaped with a suspended sentence despite a horrific attack on his then wife
Atilia Kerekes escaped with a suspended sentence despite a horrific attack on his then wife

Two domestic violence charities have criticised the "light" sentence handed to a man who avoided prison after offering his wife money for sex and hitting her across the head, dragging her upstairs and stripping her when she refused.

Atilia Kerekes (44), of Sundrive Road, Crumlin, received a suspended two-year sentence after he pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to assault causing harm.

In sentencing him, Judge Patricia Ryan said the incident took around the time of their marriage break-up when "feelings were running high".

The National Women's Council of Ireland and Women's Aid both criticised the sentence and said judges needed more training in the realities of domestic violence.

Order

Garda Tracey McDowell told the court that the couple's marriage had ended some months prior to the attack on July 3, 2017, but they continued to live together.

The woman had obtained a protection order against Kerekes in the weeks leading up to the assault, the court heard.

Gda McDowell told the court that on the day of the assault Kerekes offered to pay his wife for sex and was upset when she declined.

He then grabbed her from behind in the garden, pulled her into the house and dragged her upstairs, the court heard.

Gda McDowell said Kerekes took her into the bedroom that they used to share, and hit her twice across the head before removing her jeans by force.

The woman was screaming and crying and repeatedly asked Kerekes to stop, the court was told.

"She grabbed a plastic bottle and hit him on the head; she was physically trying to fight him off," Gda McDowell said.

Kerekes then took off the woman's clothes and got on top of her, leaving her struggling to breathe.

He stopped when he realised how scared she was and apologised to her, Gda McDowell added.

The witness agreed with counsel that Kerekes had taken the marriage break-up badly and was jealous of his wife's new relationship.

The woman's victim impact statement and the prosecution's legal team said she suffered depression and cried every day for months after the attack.

Kerekes's legal team said he was remorseful and wanted to apologise to the victim.

His barrister said he was a good father who had a meaningful relationship with the couple's 18-year-old daughter and had no previous convictions.

Judge Patricia Ryan sentenced Kerekes to two years' imprisonment, fully suspended for a period of two years.

The judge told him she was giv ing him credit for his guilty plea, his co-operation with gardai, his excellent employment record and his expressions of remorse following the incident.

She said it was a serious incident that was violent in nature and had had a physical and psychological effect on his victim.

Judge Ryan said she would not ask Kerekes to engage with Probation Services as such appointments could jeopardise his employment.

But the sentence has been met with criticism.

"This woman had a protection order which indicates there was a previous recognition of trouble," said Women's Aid director Margaret Martin.

"This man pleaded guilty, so there was no issue that the assault did not happen.

"Sometimes if a man accused in these cases is seen as respectable the crime gets viewed as a one-off in court.

"But there is a pattern in this case.

"Until judges understand better the dynamics of domestic violence we will continue to see lighter sentencing."

Ms Martin added: "These crimes are often more about gaining control rather than losing control, and they are not a one-off.

"This is something we are concerned about, and we have now started a sentencing watch system to monitor prison sentences.

Training

"We already have a femicide watch system and find that half of women victims of homicide are killed by intimate partners, either current or ex."

Ms Martin's views were echoed by National Women's Council of Ireland director Orla O'Connor.

"There are two aspects to this that cause concern.

"Firstly the sentence seems very low and secondly the judge's comments, such as 'excellent employment record'," she said.

"It is difficult for women to go to gardai and court in these cases and any negative sentences make it harder.

"It shows a lack of understanding of the impact of domestic violence, and we think judges need more training in this regard."

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