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Donegal judge explores domestic abuse tragedy 27.04.07

A judge has warned perpetrators of domestic violence in Inishowen that he will deal with them severely.
Judge Desmond Zaidan made his comments during the case of 50-year old Patrick McLaughlin, Glentogher, Carndonagh, who was convicted on Wednesday of attacking his ex-partner, Catherine Burke, 8 Sliabh Sneacta, Buncrana, with a hammer.
Judge Zaidan described the case as "tragic" and, in a lengthy hearing, explored the reasons why victims of domestic violence, find it difficult to break free of their abusers.
Under cross-examination by the defendant's solicitor, Micheal Canavan, Ms. Burke, a 47-year old care worker and grandmother, said despite a history of violence in their seven-year relationship she would go back.
She believed she returned for a number of reasons including "partly fear, partly love and partly (being) mixed-up".
"I never loved a man in my life the way I loved him," she told the court.
"The first year was perfect. I would thank God for this lovely man."
When things began to turn sour, however, he turned violent and had on different occasions, burned her with boiling soup, stuck his thumbs down her throat and burned her clothes, the court was told.
"Maybe it was my lack of self worth," she said, adding that she had been free of her abuser since the last attack and had received invaluable counselling. This had helped restore her self-esteem, she said.
In trying to explain her reasons for returning she said "mixed signals" confused her.
"He was very loving and passionate in between the violence," she said.
Ms. Burke said her ex-partner always presented a civil and gentlemanly face to the public.
Sometimes, she said, she felt more in control staying because she feared he would track her down and hurt her if she left. She always kept her own house "as back up", she added.
Judge Zaidan postponed sentencing until July 17th, 2007 and ordered a victim impact statement. He ordered a probation report to include an exploration of the defendant's anger management issues.
Meanwhile, he forbad the defendant to have any contact with Ms. Burke and said he must pay her "substantial" damages "as a gesture of (his) remorse" aside from any sentence he would impose in July.
Judge Zaidan said McLaughlin would not be the first or last man to appear before him on a charge of violence against his partner.
He referred to a counsellor's report on Ms. Burke's case and outlined a number of reasons why victims stay with their violent partners.
He said, when attacked, victims can suffer Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and when the partner pleads with them to return, intense fear is triggered and they may fall back on "a familiar coping mechanism and play along for the sake of their immediate safety". Often perpetrators apologise for their behaviour, thinking it will help them with a pending court case. Similarly, when the violent partner pleads for the victim's return, she becomes "confused by the mixed messages" and "taken in by their inner longing to be loved". Judge Zaidan addressed the defendant directly and told him this was his pattern of abuse towards Ms. Burke. It was particularly sad, he said, because she had truly loved him. He said he had a "dual personality" that gave him a propensity to violence and he badly needed help. "Only a coward can lay a finger on a woman, particularly a very vulnerable woman," he told him. "Is there any reason why I should not send you to prison right now?" he asked. After a submission from defence solicitor, Micheal Canavan, the judge adjourned sentencing until July 17th, 2007 on the defendant's own bond of 5,000 for a victim impact statement and probation report on the defendant's anger issues.

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