A legal row has erupted over the contents of a victim impact statement in the sentencing of TV fitness instructor Francis Usanga who was found guilty of attacking his former partner.
Mother-of-two Emma Murphy had already told a court she was punched in the face in front of their children when she confronted Usanga about cheating.
However, his lawyer objected to her victim impact statement today branding it “outlandish” as well as “utterly prejudicial and untrue”.
Usanga a 31-year-old Dubliner and former Today show fitness expert denied assault causing harm to fitness blogger Emma Murphy during a row outside his former workplace at FX Fitness gym in Santry in north Dublin on July 3, 2015.
Usanga, with an address at Lanesboro, Finglas, was found guilty last month after he went on trial before Judge Bryan Smyth at the Dublin District Court
The court was told she was punched in the face and left with a black eye after she confronted him.
Judge Smyth did not accept the 5’10 fitness instructor’s self-defence claim that he pushed her away because he was in fear of her or the argument that this was justifiable force. Usanga had also told the court he was surprised by her injuries which he thought was make-up.
Sentencing was adjourned until today to allow Ms Murphy prepare a victim impact statement in writing. However, defence solicitor Michael Hanahoe, who had been furnished with a copy, told Judge Smyth it indicated matters that should not have been in it and which he said were “totally, utterly prejudicial and untrue”.
The prosecution said Ms Murphy had been provided with guidelines and her statement outlined the effects of the attack. Judge Smyth remarked that the first line of the second paragraph seemed to refer to something else and there had to be adherence to guidelines.
He said he was concerned with the matter before the court and nothing else.
“A victim impact statement could not be used to bring in other matters that may well be relevant to their relationship, but the court has to deal with what is before the court, and it is in relation to that offence and that offence only,” he said.
Mr Hanahoe, defending, said he had a problem with a prosecution suggestion that Ms Murphy could give more specific oral evidence instead. He said the document furnished to the court was deliberately prejudicial.
Judge Smyth said he was not happy to read it and he disregarded the written statement.
The defence solicitor said: “It is unusual that anyone would have to cross examine a victim impact statement but the document attempted to be put before the court is so outlandish I would have to look at whether it is appropriate to do that. There are matters in that that absolutely alter the court’s view, not just in the findings but in the nature of the case”.
He said the court was in a difficult situation and the State should look at whether it can proceed.
Judge Smyth adjourned the case for two weeks. He said a victim impact statement was not a carte blanche to go into every aspect, however, he also said Ms Murphy could give oral evidence.
Following the attack, she made a video about her ordeal which went viral on the internet and she appeared on ITV's Loose Women.
If she hadn't spoken out she would have remained in an abusive relationship with Usanga, she had said during the trial.
In evidence, Ms Murphy said Usanga was the father of her two young children and they had been in a relationship for three-and-a-half years which she described as “really bad, toxic”.
On the day, she went with her children in the car to the gym to talk to him about their relationship and his cheating, she said.
She asked him if there was a girl in the gym and he said “no”, she told the court. She said there was a “loads of verbal abuse” and he had told her to f*** off after she asked for his phone.
She told the court there had been “a crazy amount of cheating going on” and she wanted to call one of his friends to ask him if Usanga had been with him over the previous Father’s Day weekend.
She said she needed to get to the bottom of it “because it was not fair on me, it was not fair on my children”.
She said at the gym he gave her a phone and she went outside with it and she claimed she discovered more cheating.
“I said, ‘you cheated on me again’,” she told the court. She said she was disgusted and threw the phone in his direction and he then punched her in the face. “He straight up punched me with his hand, his fist”, she said.
She told the court she was hit on her left eye and was “utterly distraught”. She said her children, then aged six months and 18 months, were in the car.
She told Judge Smyth her former partner said “you broke my f***ing phone” and as he went to pick it up she got in her car and drove away. Her eye was swelling and going red at the time, she recalled. She said she put ice on it and her brother took photos of her injuries.
She rejected several claims put to her by the defence: that during an earlier meeting that day at the Ikea car park she was confrontational and angry, forced Usanga to leave in his car, that she sped after him in her own car with her children on board and tried to cut him off at the gates.
It was put to her that he had been a celebrity and she later broke into his Facebook account telling his 10,000 followers she had been assaulted by him and “that was the type of person he was”. She agreed that she shared a video.
The defence suggested this was an attempt to “destroy him” but she replied, “it was my attempt to get out of an abusive relationship, if I had not I would probably still be there.”
“Sharing a story can help other women,” she said.
In the witness box she had held up a photo of her injuries and had said, “This is me, this is my black eye.”
In evidence, the fitness instructor claimed he was in fear for his life of Ms Murphy. “I used my hands to push her away, I didn’t know what she was going to do," he claimed.
A former BScene model, he also appeared in Jennifer Maguire’s dating series, One Night Stand, in 2010.
He told the trial that at the time of the incident he had not reached the pinnacle of his career and was not yet “worldwide” but just “a local health and fitness guy in Ireland”.
“I pushed her to stop attacking me,” he claimed.
He also said he thought her injuries were “make up”.