Man sobs in court after being charged with breaking ex-girlfriend's nose

The accused allegedly demanded to know whether the woman was in a relationship with anyone else, which she denied before being punched twice in the face

File photo
File photo

A man from Birgu begged a court not to send him to prison after he was accused of repeatedly punching his ex-girlfriend in the face, breaking her nose in the process.

The unedifying scene unfolded in court on Monday as 28-year-old paint salesman, Tyson Bugeja, was arraigned under arrest before magistrate Victor Axiak. Prosecutor Cynthia Tomasuolo and Police Inspector Colin Sheldon charged Bugeja with having grievously wounded the woman on December 16, while inside a house in Bormla. He was also accused of attacking, insulting or threatening the woman and causing her to fear violence against her or her loved ones.

Bugeja was further accused of breaching three separate sets of bail conditions, as well as with recidivism. He had been accused of damaging an ex-girlfriend’s car and armed robbery in the past.

Bugeja, assisted by lawyer George Anton Buttigieg, pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Inspector Sheldon explained to the court that on Saturday, the Domestic Violence Unit had been informed that the victim had filed a police report from her hospital bed after she was taken there by ambulance. 

She told the police that her ex-boyfriend, the defendant, had knocked on her front door, which she had opened to find him there. Bugeja allegedly demanded to know whether the woman was in a relationship with anyone else, which she denied. He said he’d find out anyway and then punched her in the face, twice, breaking her nose, before calling an ambulance for her.

Bugeja was later arrested at his residence on the strength of an arrest warrant and escorted to the police station. He, too, had to be taken to hospital after complaining of chest pain and was arraigned after his discharge.

The defence requested bail.

Tomasuolo objected to the man’s release, telling the court that his criminal record was a testament to his character. She also pointed to the early stage of the proceedings in which the victim hadn’t yet testified.

In addition, she said, the defendant had been afforded several opportunities by the courts which he had always failed to make good use of. 

The arraignment was interrupted by the defendant, who complained of chest pain, at which point the magistrate ordered an ambulance be called. But seconds later, the defendant theatrically threw himself to the courtroom floor, telling police that he couldn’t get up. “I don’t want to go to prison…I didn’t do anything. I’m tired of spending time in prison for nothing,” he sobbed.

While waiting for the ambulance, the magistrate asked the defence whether the sitting could continue. His lawyer said he wished to wait for the ambulance.

“I’m seeing a great darkness,” interrupted the defendant, breaking into loud sobs again at the prospect of returning to prison. 

The prosecution pointed out that he had been medically certified as fit to attend court before the sitting.

The court imposed a publication ban on the name of the victim. The defence also asked for a ban on the publication of the man’s name, as the couple had a young child, who lived with the mother, but this request was not granted.

Buttigieg explained that the defendant had been on bail and that a protection order had previously been issued in favour of the victim. The woman had subsequently moved away from the address specified on the protection order. 

“After the woman testified and made a great to-do, as soon as he was released from prison, she went to his house knocking on his door and making a scene,” said the lawyer. “What he did wrong was that he did not inform the police, but instead accompanied her to a hotel.”

The lawyer stressed that he was not trying to justify anything, but said that the wider picture was that the victim had sought the defendant out and got him out of the house with the excuse of their daughter.” 

The defence also alleged that the injuries had not been inflicted by the defendant, and argued that although the woman had not yet testified in court, her account of events was already preserved in her statement to the police.

Buttigieg told the court that risk assessments were only useful up to a point, as only the alleged victim is spoken to before an assessment is drawn up.

The court pointed out that before it was a man, charged with breaching three separate sets of bail conditions. It asked how he could be trusted.

“If this man is allowed to stay in his house and left alone, he will stay there. But the parte civile went outside his front door and told him to go see their daughter,” protested his lawyer.

Buttigieg argued that his client ought to be considered trustworthy, despite his criminal record, as he had been obeying his bail conditions at the time the woman invited him over.

The court, after hearing the arguments, ruled that it was not sufficiently assured that the defendant was trustworthy enough to be released on bail and ordered that he be remanded in custody at this stage, as the loud sobs from the man in the dock resumed. 

The magistrate recommended that the prison authorities assess whether the defendant required any treatment or accommodation arrangements.