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Harasser wins appeal but gets more time

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A man jailed after he breached a domestic violence protection order several times has had his sentence extended after he argued his original jail term was too long.

Howard Ascento, 32, had told the court his one-year sentence was excessive because magistrate Maxanne Anderson did not consider his guilty plea or his remorse.

Puisne Judge Shade Subair Williams agreed in a judgment delivered on September 4 that the magistrate had erred by not giving Ascento a discount for his plea.

But she also found that some of his sentences should run consecutively rather than concurrently and extended Ascento's total prison sentence from 12 months to 17 months.

Mrs Justice Subair Williams said: “To allow the appellant to serve concurrent sentences for separate and distinct offences which were committed throughout a near one-year time span would betray the reality that the appellant repeatedly decided to breach the protection order in a way designed to terrorise the complainant over the course of 11 months.

“Ascento brazenly ignored the court's protection orders beyond mere contact — he expressly threatened violence against the complainant and was otherwise menacing in his overall contact with her.”

Magistrates' Court heard last November that Ascento's ex-girlfriend had obtained a domestic violence protection order against him in early 2018 after she had suffered harassment for several months.

But Ascento phoned the woman in April that year and sent her a message on social media that said: “U n everyone in ya house going to see tonight.”

The message caused the woman to fear for her life and she alerted police, who arrested Ascento.

The court also heard that Ascento was alleged to have broken the protection order again by approaching inside 100 metres of the woman on December 19, 2018 and March 1, 2019.

He also sent the woman direct messages over social media on March 4, 2019, including a voice note in which he threatened to slap her.

Ascento pleaded not guilty to the offences on October 15 last year and, after he was refused bail, he attempted to flee Magistrates' Court, pushing past a police officer and running out of the court.

He was arrested before he could leave the building and admitted the offences when he was brought back before the court the next month.

Ms Anderson sentenced Ascento to nine months' imprisonment for the first breach of a domestic violence protection order and 12 months for the other three breaches.

She also sentenced him to three months' imprisonment for threatening the woman and ordered all the sentences to run concurrently.

But Ascento launched an appeal and argued the sentence did not factor in either his guilty plea or his expressed remorse.

Mrs Justice Subair Williams accepted that there was “no visible reduction” given by the magistrate and she reduced several of the sentences.

She reduced the sentence for the first DVPO breach to four months, the second breach to six months and the final two breaches to seven months each.

But she added that several the sentences should run consecutively because they were tied to separate incidents.

Mrs Justice Subair Williams grouped the offences together into a four-month sentence for the offences that took place in April 2018, a six-month sentence for the offence in December 2018 and a seven-month sentence for the offences from March 2019.

She ordered all of those sentences to run consecutively — a 17-month sentence — and that the sentence be followed by one year of probation.

Mrs Justice Subair Williams said: “I am mindful that I have substituted a sentence which is, in its totality, more severe than the sentence originally passed.

“The Criminal Appeal Act 1952 provides that this court, in determining an appeal against sentence, may quash the original sentence in substitution for another lawful sentence where this court finds that the appellant should have been dealt with in another way.

“This newly imposed sentence may be more or less severe than the original sentence.”

It is The Royal Gazette's policy not to allow comments on stories regarding criminal court cases. This is to prevent any statements being published that may jeopardise the outcome of that case.

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Published September 21, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated September 21, 2020 at 1:25 pm)

Harasser wins appeal but gets more time

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