Six month suspended sentence for ‘serial domestic abuser’

The courthouse at Bishop Street, Derry.
The courthouse at Bishop Street, Derry.

A ‘serial domestic abuser’ who assaulted his ex-girlfriend has had a six months jail sentence suspended for three years.

Sean Johnston, with an address of Flora Gardens, London, pleaded guilty to assaulting the woman as she pushed her one-year-old child in a pram.

The 34-years-old also admitted breaching a Restraining Order.

The charges relate to an incident on May 3, last year.

Derry Crown Court heard the defendant has a domestic history involving three different women dating back to 2002.

This victim reported Johnston to police for domestic incidents 37 times during their 18 year on/off relationship.

In May last year the woman was walking along Pump Street with her child and a friend.

Johnston got out of a parked car and shouted at her to give him her phone.

The woman refused and reached out to grab her purse, which was hanging off the child’s pram.

Johston attempted to grab the woman, who raised her arms to defend herself.

He grabbed hold of her waist and twisted her arm to get her phone.

The court heard the defendant put his other hand around the woman’s neck and tried to pull her to the ground.

At the time of the offence, Johnston was on Probation for threatening to kill the same woman.

He was not arrested until August last year and during police interviews, denied the offences.

The defendant also claimed the woman would withdraw her statement.

It was revealed the woman did withdraw her statement for a period of time. However, it was reinstated after the woman explained she had had a difficult experience in court in the past.

Defence counsel Nicki Rountree said these offences ‘arise out of an unhappy separation.’

She told the court Johnston ‘decided’ the injured party was seeing someone else and wanted to get her phone to confirm this.

The barrister said the defendant now accepts his behaviour was inappropriate and that the relationship was now over.

Passing sentence, Judge Philip Babington said Johnston is a ‘serial domestic abuser’.

The judge noted that the defendant has been in custody since August 2016 and is on remand for other alleged offences.

Suspending a six month sentence for three years, Judge Babington said he is ‘concerned for the safety of women in this city’ and hoped to prevent further offending.

He also imposed a further five year Restraining Order which bans Johnston from having any contact with the victim.