Victim of assault ordered to appear in court as confusion abounds over relationship

July 1, 2017

A Judge has directed that a witness order be served on a woman after she failed to appear at the sentencing case of a man convicted of assault causing harm to her at their St Johnston home.

John Latta (33) had pleaded guilty to the offence against Laura Cole at Creatland, St Johnston, on August 12, 2016.

At Tuesday’s sitting of Letterkenny District Court, a hand-written letter from Ms Cole to Garda McLaughlin, asking that the charges be dropped as she had got back together with Latta, was read out.

However, at Friday’s sitting of the same Court, Garda McLaughlin said she had made contact with Ms Cole, who told her ‘they had briefly, after the incident, tried to rekindle the relationship, but she couldn’t get over the assault’.

Garda McLaughlin said that Ms Cole informed her that she had moved out of Donegal.

The case took a fresh twist when Latta’s defence counsel, Mr Peter Nolan (BL) put forward the suggestion that the couple were cohabiting at an address in Kinlough, County Leitrim.

“I can establish and can prove that they live together,” Mr Nolan said.

Judge John O’Hagan said that he wanted Ms Cole to be in Court and put the matter into the Buncrana Circuit Court list for July 13.

Tuesday’s sitting of Letterkenny District Court Garda McLaughlin said that Laura Cole was ‘distressed, tearful and very shaken and there was still blood on her clothes four hours later’ when she spoke to her on the morning of August 12, 2016.

Counsel for the protection, Ms Patricia McLaughlin, said that Latta had returned from the pub on the night in question. In her statement to Gardai, Ms Cole said that she had been on the couch talking to one of her children, who had come up from bed, about a birthday part the following day when Latta came in.

Ms Cole alleged that Latta had said: ‘What are you doing up? What are you doing in this house, you bitch?’ upon his return before ‘putting a pullbar across her’.

Ms Cole, the court heard, was pregnant at the time, and alleged that Latta had pushed her to the ground before punching her in the stomach area. ‘He said he was kicking the wain out of me’, she said in evidence to Gardai.

Ms Cole received stitches to a wound on her head and a further allegation of an assault, from July 10, 2017, when Ms Cole alleged that Latta gave her a black eye whilst she was taking clothes from the drier.

Latta was arrested on August 12, 2016 and taken to Letterkenny Garda Station, where he said that Ms Cole had ‘made this up’ due to ‘some kind of vendetta’.

The couple had been together for three years, living together for the two year. At the time of the alleged assault, Latta said he had been ‘under serious financial pressure’ and the relationship was under strain as a result.

Latta said he returned to live with Ms Cole in late September, 2016 and that there were ‘no difficulties’.

Mr Nolan gave to Tuesday’s court a letter from Ms Cole to Garda McLaughlin.

‘The whole thing has been blown out of proportion,’ it read. ‘I know that there will never be a repeat. I have since had to move away to get on with my life as it got too much for everyone. I just want to forget the whole thing.’

At Friday’s sitting, Garda McLaughlin said she had made contact with Ms Cole on Tuesday after leaving court.

“I asked her attitude about the case and she said that they weren’t back together,” Garda McLaughlin said.

“She said they had, briefly after the incident, tried to rekindle the relationship but she couldn’t get over the assaults. And that, no, they weren’t back together. She said that she moved out of Donegal. I gave her the opportunity to attend court or to meet me, but she didn’t take up either offer.”

Judge O’Hagan said he was not happy with the matter.

“I take domestic rows like this very seriously, particularly when there are children in the same house,” he said.

“I want the lady to come in a and tell me what the situation is. I am not happy about this. I am concerned.”

Latta was remanded on continuing bail and the case will be before at Buncrana Circuit Court on July 13.