A man charged with the serious assault of his former partner has had his case adjourned to June 1 for sentencing following a lengthy hearing last week.
Lee Goodchild, 2 Auburn Village, Mullingar, Co Westmeath, appeared before Judge Keenan Johnson at a sitting of Longford Circuit Court, which was held in Mullingar last Wednesday.
He was charged with punching his partner, causing bruising around her left eye. It is also alleged that Mr Goodchild “chewed” the injured party’s lip, causing a laceration to the left side of her mouth.
The court heard that Mr Goodchild accepted he had punched his former partner but he denied allegations of chewing her lip.
The injured party told the court last week that, on May 13, 2020, she and Mr Goodchild were having a few drinks in the sitting room of her Ardnacassa home when Mr Goodchild “became aggressive” towards her about her family.
“My brother and my family didn’t like him and he started talking about what he would do to them. I tried to get him to stop and he started getting aggressive with me for standing up for my family,” the woman explained.
“He grabbed me by the throat and pushed me down on the couch. I got him off me by agreeing with him and I managed to calm the situation down.
“Ten minutes later, I said I was going to the toilet but I went to bed because I was tired. I fell asleep but I was woken up by punches to the head. He had me by the hair with one hand and was punching me in the head with the other,” she continued.
“He had his two knees pinning me to the bed and I started screaming and crying. That’s when he choked me. He was mocking me because I was crying.
“He grabbed me by the hair on the two sides of my head and leaned down and grabbed my lip with his teeth. He pulled like a dog. That’s the only way I can describe it. It was like being attacked by a dog. I thought that was it. I thought I wasn’t going to get out of this. He put his hand around my neck and he choked me until I passed out.”
The whole incident took approximately 15 minutes, the court heard, with the victim losing consciousness for a time.
“I woke up and I was all bloody. He said ‘how does it feel to nearly die? I could take your life very easily’. He stopped and lay down in the bed and I waited for ages, shaking,” said the woman.
“He shouted at me to stop crying. I waited until he fell asleep and I ran downstairs. I couldn’t open the front door because I was in a panic, so I went into the sitting room and there’s a big window, so I climbed out of that and I ran to the neighbour’s house.”
The woman explained that she knocked on her neighbour’s door but got no answer. She ran to the next house and got no answer. There was a light on in a house around the corner, she added, and a girl looked out the window.
She asked the woman to call the guards and said they came very quickly but couldn’t tell prosecuting barrister, Shane Geraghty, what time it was.
“Two gardaí arrived and brought me to the garda station and rang an ambulance. I was taken to Mullingar Hospital and had to have a brain scan because there was a lump at the back of my head and I was dizzy,” the injured party explained.
“I was given painkillers and anti-nausea pills because I was being sick. I was released the next evening at about five or six o’clock.
“The hospital arranged for a taxi to bring me from the hospital to the station to make a statement.”
Ms Suzanne Dooner, Bl, for the defence, noted that Gda David Buckley and Gda Ian McEntee arrived at Ardnacassa at 2.30am and that the injured party had told Gda Buckley she had been struck in the face with a fist.
“You made no reference to Mr Goodchild kneeling on you,” said Ms Dooner.
“That’s because it wasn’t a full statement. I just wanted to get out of the estate, so I wasn’t giving a full account,” said the injured party.
“Today you said he grabbed you by the throat in the sitting room but that wasn’t in your initial statement,” said Ms Dooner.
“He had assaulted me that many times but this was the most serious. But every time he drank, he lashed out in some way,” said the woman.
“You gave the doctor an account two hours later. Do you recall?” asked Ms Dooner.
The injured party said she didn’t remember because she wasn’t feeling well at the time. Ms Dooner explained that the hospital records kept by the doctor at 4.43am stated that the woman was brought to the hospital in an ambulance after an assault from her boyfriend who she said had punched her in the cheek and choked her, but that there was no mention of him biting her lip.
“It was clear to see that there was no way a punch could cut my lip like that. I still have a jagged scar on my face which couldn’t come from a fist,” the woman insisted.
“You did not tell the doctor that he chewed your face. You also said he choked you, which is a different account to the one you gave to Gda Buckley,” said Ms Dooner.
“You attended the garda station the next day and gave a very colourful account of a ferocious attack,” she added.
“A true account,” the injured party insisted.
“I have to put it to you that if this was all true, you’d have told Gda Buckley,” said Ms Dooner.
“No, my priority wasn’t to get Lee Goodchild in trouble, it was to get to safety,” the woman replied.
“You didn’t tell the doctor about him chewing your lip, which is evidence that you fabricated it,” Ms Dooner insisted before noting that the photographs of the attack showed “no evidence of teeth marks”.
On June 20, the victim made a statement of withdrawal at Longford Garda Station but Mr Geraghty noted to the court that “she said she didn’t want to go through with it, not that she lied”.
Garda David Buckley, when giving evidence, confirmed that he and Gda McEntee had arrived at Ardnacassa and found the injured party in a “dishevelled state” on the footpath.
“She was visibly upset with bruising to her face and blood from a cut in her lip was streaming down the side of her face into her hair,” he said, adding that she was put into the patrol car for her safety and taken to Longford Garda Station where an ambulance was called for.
He confirmed that, when interviewed, Mr Goodchild denied all allegations of assaulting his former partner and that he told gardaí he and the injured party had ended their relationship but that she wanted him back and that he went to her house to talk.
Mr Goodchild’s clothing was seized by gardaí for the purpose of obtaining possible DNA samples to prove that he had assaulted the injured party.
However, Ms Dooner noted, the clothing had never been sent, despite Gda Buckley stating that he had been told they were sent off for examination.
The doctor who attended to the injured party when she presented at the hospital confirmed that the patient had alleged an assault by her boyfriend who “punched her and tried to strangle or choke her”.
“Her injuries were swelling on the left side of her face and a laceration on her lower lip to the left side. She was kept in for observation. A CT scan of the brain and facial bones was carried out and there were no abnormalities,” he said.
Under questioning from Ms Dooner, the doctor confirmed that alcohol had been taken and that the injured party had not mentioned that Mr Goodchild had “latched onto her lip”.
Judge Keenan Johnson noted that the medical reports would be “useful” in this case and adjourned the case overnight to Tullamore Circuit Court where those reports were made available to him.
In his direct evidence at Tullamore Circuit Court last Thursday, Mr Goodchild said that on May 13, 2020, the date of the assault, he and the victim had an argument over issues in the relationship “after a feed of drink and drugs”.
He admitted grabbing the woman and hitting her a punch in the face, adding that she fell and got up and after five or 10 minutes of them both sitting on the couch he carried her to the bed and went into the next room.
When it was put to him by Ms Dooner that the injured party had said he had knelt on top of her he said he did not know what to say about that.
He denied that he “chewed” on her face and asked why he would stay in the house until 11am the following morning if he had done that.
“I thought when I first woke up with the hangover I had I was disgusted with myself for hitting her the way I did hit her,” he said.
He said he left that house and walked around Longford for a few hours and by the time he was interviewed by the gardai he had been on a “five-day bender” and had drink and drugs in him when he was being questioned.
Cross-examined by Mr Geraghty, Mr Goodchild agreed that when questioned he denied punching the woman and he admitted telling a series of lies to the gardaí.
“If I didn't have alcohol and drugs in my system I would have admitted to hitting her,” he said.
While he admitted the punch, he insisted that he had not bitten her on the lip: “I'm pleading guilty to hitting her a punch because that's what happened.”
Summing up the case, Judge Johnson said that the fact the accused lied consistently to gardaí put a question over his credibility.
He said he was satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the injuries sustained by the woman were inflicted on her by the accused.
“They consisted of a punch to the face in addition to a bite injury to her lower lip and sentence will be dealt with on that basis,” he said.
He also noted that, from the medical records on her admission it is “quite clear that not alone on one occasion but on two occasions she advised the hospital authorities that she had been bitten by the accused”.
Adjourning sentence to June 1, Judge Johnson ordered a probation report, a prison governor's report and analysis of the accused's urine.
Mr Goodchild remains in Castlerea Prison.