Former Councillor admits she was 'stupid' for ignoring husband's domestic abuse
Published: 15 Nov 2012 13:001 comment
A former Ulster Unionist member of Fermanagh District Council has described herself as a "stupid woman" for turning a blind eye to "years of domestic abuse" at the hands of her husband.
Jean McVitty was giving evidence against her estranged husband, John McVitty, who was convicted of assaulting her and their son, Mark McVitty.
John McVitty denied the charges but was convicted of the offences, conditionally discharged for 12 months and bound over to keep the peace for 18 months in the sum of £1,000.
He is specifically banned from harassing his wife.
Mrs. McVitty told Fermanagh Court that on Sunday, April 22, she was at home at Drumany, Lisnaskea, when her husband "tackled" her about their son Mark having his electric grinder. She said her husband called their son names, that "he was a bastard, he was everything under the sun".
She said her husband then began calling her foul names, telling her she was a "one-eyed ugly bastard and one-eyed ugly monster".
She explained that she had lost an eye about 12 months previously.
"I had never actually seen him worse," she said.
"He literally went demented," she added.
"He was coming at me with his fists up. They were in my face and then came down onto my neck and throat," she told the court. "He had his hands round my face, round my throat."
She described how their younger son, Ross, who had been in the study, came out and basically asked his father could he not pick on someone else rather than his mother.
Mrs. McVitty said her husband started "having a go" at Ross for intervening, encouraging his son to hit him with the words: "Come on Ross, come on Ross, I'm ready for you."
She said Ross then left the house and she could hear her husband "still doing a war dance" in the kitchen.
"He was purple in the face and his eyes were bulging in his face," stated Mrs. McVitty.
She described how her husband was lying on a settee and at one point kicked a door and it hit her on the arm.
Cross-examined by defence barrister Liam Barr she said her husband's behaviour had been getting out of control, that "it always was bad" but had been "escalating and getting worse".
Asked why she didn't phone the police, she replied: "I am a stupid woman who had turned a blind eye to domestic violence that had been going on for years. I'm a silly woman who didn't wish to discuss my family's problems with anyone for a long number of years, I have hidden that fact and denied it. It was only close family members that knew what was going on in my home."
She said she had made a complaint to police in 1998 because she felt "extremely frightened and in danger and I can assure you I still feel that way".
Ross McVitty gave evidence that on Sunday, April 22, he heard shouting in the kitchen and went in and "basically my father had his hands around my mother's throat".
He said his father "had his fists in my face" and that he left the house and went to his brother's.
Mr. Barr suggested to him that the reason he didn't contact the police to tell them his mother was being choked was "because it didn't happen".
Ross McVitty said it did happen.
His older brother, Mark McVitty, told the court that six days later, on Saturday, April 28, shortly after 10am, he was washing his car on the lane when his father approached him in an agitated state. His father wanted to move cattle down the lane into a field.
"I told him I would be finished in a few minutes; I wouldn't be long," said Mark McVitty.
He said he went to shut the gate and his father pushed it back towards him and told him he would drive through it. He then went and got into his tractor and drove it through the gate.
"The gate came back towards me and hit me on the arm, pushing me back towards my own vehicle. I was shouting 'Stop' and shouting for help," stated Mark McVitty.
"I had my phone out and whenever he came at me with the tractor it was broken underneath the tractor," he added.
He said his father pinned him against his car with the tractor and "after a couple of minutes he let the tractor go back a couple of feet and I got free then and gathered my thoughts to see if I was all right".
He told the court he had a sore leg, had been hit on the elbow and was in shock.
Mr. Barr asked him why he hadn't just pulled his car into the side and let the cattle past.
"With hindsight I could have," admitted Mark McVitty.
Mr. Barr referred him to his police statement in which he described how "I stood my ground and just held on to the gate" and "when I didn't back down" his father let go and walked away.
"You were up for a confrontation, weren't you," said Mr. Barr.
"No," replied Mark McVitty.
His father gave evidence that the cattle used the lane twice a day and that when he asked his son to the move the car "he never let on he heard me".
"He chose to put his car in the path of these cows knowing quite well they would be going down it again," he told the court.
"I inched the tractor forward in the hope he would move out of the way, to let him know I was going to get past and allow my cows into the pasture," he explained.
He said he drove to within "two feet" of his son but denied pinning him against the car.
Dealing with the earlier incident involving his estranged wife, McVitty accepted that he was saying bad things about her but claimed she had started the "disagreement".
"I never raised my fists to my wife in my life," he insisted.
"I can tell you right now, I never had her by the throat," he added.
District Judge Liam McNally said he was satisfied that McVitty was "abusive and controlling and had lost his temper with his wife" but their son Ross's evidence that his mother was being strangled and that he left the house was "incomprehensible".
However, he said he was satisfied McVitty did kick the door against Mrs. McVitty.
He pointed it that this was the third time the family's disputes had been aired in court and that on a previous occasion he had taken the view that Mark McVitty had "engineered" the confrontation with his father on the lane and that McVitty was "going to move his cattle, come hell or high water".
The District Judge said it gave him no pleasure to listen to any case "where a family's dirty washing has been aired in public" and to find a father lying against his wife and two sons was "very distressing". He said he gathered that the problem was "irreversible". He also said he was taking into account that there was provocation in the assault on Mark McVitty "but that doesn't excuse it".
He told McVitty, his wife and their two sons: "If you can't get on with each other, then get on without each other and stay out of each other's lives."