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Man who subjected partner to weekly attacks in coercive control case is jailed after appeal

22-year-old Jody Duggan said she took the case to show other women they are “not alone”.

A MAN WHO was given a wholly suspended sentence for weekly attacks on his partner, where he dragged her by the hair, slammed her head, pushed his fist into her face and screamed abuse at her while subjecting her to “appalling” coercive control, will now be sent to jail after a successful appeal by the State.

At Trim Circuit Court in January of this year, James ‘Jake’ Boles was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment, fully suspended, by Judge Orla Crowe for one count of coercive control and five counts of assault causing harm to his then partner at two addresses in Ratoath, Co Meath, between 1 January 2019 and 5 April 2019.

Jody Duggan (22) waived her anonymity so that Boles (24) of Rathborne Avenue, Ashtown, Dublin 15 could be named.

Speaking outside the court today, she told reporters: “What he’s done will stay with me forever.”

“I wanted to do it not for myself but to help other girls as well my own age, and other women, to know you’re not alone and to stand up for yourself.”

At the Court of Appeal today, Justice John Edwards said the court would re-sentence Boles to one year in jail having regard to the nature and frequency of the assaults, which he said inflicted “egregious” psychological and emotional abuse on the victim.

Justice Edwards said the three-judge court found that the trial judge had erred in fully suspending the sentence, in what was a departure from the norm.

At a previous hearing of the Court of Appeal Carl Hanahoe BL, for the State, submitted that the sentence was unduly lenient due to the level of physical violence involved, the period over which the offences occurred, the nature and frequency of the violence, the restraint and humiliation of the complainant and the impact the offending had on her.

Hanahoe had said an “excessive discount” had been applied by the trial judge for the mitigating factors in the case and that she had erred in nominating an “actual sentence” of two years’ imprisonment, which was then fully suspended.

Boles’ sentence hearing was told that he and his former partner began seeing each other when she was 17 and he was 19 but had broken up in 2018, however, when they later got back together he then became “physically and emotionally abusive” to her.

The sentencing hearing was told that his assaults included dragging the complainant by the hair along the floor, putting his hand over her mouth while violently screaming abuse in her ear and pushing his fist into her face, causing bruising.

The sentencing court heard that he also pinned her against a wardrobe while smothering her face in his then bedroom at Military Park in Ratoath before pushing her down a stairs.

On another occasion, he went to her house in Ratoath and smashed a mirror before verbally abusing her and slamming her head against a headboard.

In his submissions, Hanahoe had argued that although violence is not necessarily a component of the offence of coercion, it constituted a significant aggravating factor in the offending.

Hanahoe said that the trial judge identified three years’ imprisonment as a headline figure before applying a one-year discount for Boles’ guilty pleas and for his previous good character.

Hanahoe said there was “evidence in regard of the physical element that was far more frequent than the convictions for assault would suggest”.

Counsel said the complainant was subject to “physical abuse on a weekly basis”, which was a “dominant feature” in the relationship.

Justice Úna Ní Raifeartaigh, sitting at the Court of Appeal, noted that a weekly assault occurring over four months brought the case into a “very serious category”.

Justice Edwards said the cumulative nature of the assaults and coercion were “appalling” and “very damaging” to the complainant.

Hanahoe said the “pattern of behaviour” should have aggravated the penalty imposed by the trial judge. “It is dominion over another on a persistent basis,” he said.

Justice Edwards noted that some of the abuse occurred within the complainant’s home, which was constitutionally protected.

Justice Edwards also noted that the woman’s victim impact statement was “both poignant and horrendous”.

David Staunton BL, for Boles, had argued that punishment can be applied in “many different guises” but that he would not seek to “deprecate the severity” of the offending.

Staunton said the question for the Court of Appeal was whether or not the trial judge acted outside her margin of appreciation when coming to a “fork in the road” over deciding on suspending the sentence.

Staunton said the sentence was not a “binary” one that prioritised rehabilitation over punishment as the sentence was suspended until 2027 with “onerous” conditions.

Counsel said the trial judge had held his client’s “feet to the fire” in her sentencing while also attending to rehabilitation.

Counsel said the trial judge acted “impeccably” within her margin for discretion and that while the sentence was lenient it was not unduly lenient.

Staunton said he accepted that cocaine had been a factor in the offending but submitted that his client was negative in urinalysis testing and said the guilty pleas had been “hugely valuable” to the court.

Counsel said that his client had since been “publicly shamed” which he said was a “significant penalty” in addition to losing his job as a security guard because of the convictions.

Justice Patrick McCarthy, also sitting at the court, said the purpose of anonymity “is to protect the victim, not your client”.