Sarah's story | 

Victim of domestic violence reveals how going through the court system was ‘torture’

‘I feel there’s no respect for me, the victim. No one rang me to let me know he was out. Surely, someone should have let me know’

The sentence handed down to the former garda, Paul Moody, was a good day for victims

Women are being let down by failures in the system

Sunday World

As ‘Nicola’ read out her survivor statement last Monday, across town, in Swords District Court, another woman, Sarah*, was giving her survivor statement after her ex-partner Paul* admitted 10 breaches of a safety order.

He sent her a string of abusive WhatsApp voice messages over an 11-month period in 2019 and 2020, where he told her he hoped “she gets cancer and dies”.

He also said he would “break her f*cking neck” and “you’re a f*cking c*nt”.

He received a 14-month sentence but immediately appealed it and was released on bail pending his appeal in the circuit court.

Here is Sarah’s story.

“Oh my God, is this finally happening?” I thought to myself as the judge gave Paul 14 months. After four long years I was going to get the chance to breathe, to relax.

“He’s definitely going to jail today?” I asked the gardaí and the State prosecutor.

For years, I had lived in fear of Paul. He had mentally tortured me and sent vile messages that made me sick to my stomach. He’d isolated me from my friends as I was afraid of what he might do to them. I wouldn’t leave my home when it was dark, not even to put out the bins.

“Go home, everything is sorted,” they said, “100 per cent, he’s going [to jail] today, they said.

So, I went home and went for a walk in the park. I felt relieved, finally safe, that I didn’t have to look over my back anymore.

A few hours later, I got a call saying Paul had been spotted in the local shop. I nearly got sick, I couldn’t understand what had happened.

I rang the Garda station in a panic, telling them this was urgent and I needed to know why Paul wasn’t in jail after I’d been assured, four times, he was going to jail. It took hours but a garda eventually rang back and told me Paul had appealed the sentence.

I feel there’s no respect for me, the victim. No one rang me to let me know he was out. Surely, someone should have let me know.

The pattern, in my situation is, things escalate before and after court dealings and it feels no one is taking that seriously enough. The Gardaí are very aware that matters are ongoing and this is only a snippet of my reality living alongside this man.

My worry is very real for my safety right now and my need for good support from the gardai is vital.

Gardaí are asking for people to come forward at the moment and they will be listened to. I feel let down with how poor the communication was on Monday.

How was I let walk away from that court feeling safe for the first time in years, and hours later I was yet again scrambling to find out information that no one could tell me. How is that let happen?

The process of going to court is really gruelling, and it’s breaking me down slowly.

My case had been set down for hearing on three different occasions, the first being in early January last.

As you can imagine, that ruined Christmas for me. Each time, I have had the torture of building myself up for the case, the emotions of getting myself ready to live through all the abuse again, and then nothing happens. That’s really, really hard.

He wouldn’t admit to everything, so I let some charges go, just to get a guilty plea on the others.

Women are being let down by failures in the system

It kills me to have done that but those charges were harder to prove, and I just need a break from all this.

It’s so tough to walk into court, to see your abuser, to be in such close proximity to him.

In the district court, you’re mostly on your own. There was so much going through my mind. As I read my statement, I was thinking, keep it together, try and not get too emotional. His solicitor cut across me, interrupting my thought flow.

So it’s challenging to keep it together, to the black and white of what he’s admitted to, where there’s so much going on in the background.

The sentence handed down to the former garda, Paul Moody, was a good day for victims, for Nicola, who was believed. But for me, the district court system is torture.

Women are being let down by failures in the system, and often it feels overwhelming. I’m in and out of court all the time, and it’s just constant pressure.

In my case, I feel Paul should have been charged with more serious charges, and I’ve made numerous statements about incidents to gardaí, but nothing has been done.

I know investigations take time, and there has to be due process, but what the Gardaí don’t seem to understand is that it isn’t easy reliving those horrible experiences to make the statements, and then nothing happens, for months and months.

I don’t want to be a pest but I feel I’m constantly on to the Gardaí, highlighting the urgency to get CCTV, for example, or pushing for them to progress my case.

And I’m the victim here. I don’t think I should be doing that.

Don’t get me wrong, the Gardaí have been very good to me, but the law, going to court, it’s a really cold process, and you have to keep pushing to be heard.

*Names have been changed

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