A woman who killed her violent, alcoholic boyfriend, who she said had made her life "a living hell" and whom she had obtained two safety orders against, has been jailed for four years for manslaughter.
At the Central Criminal Court today, Mr Justice Alexander Owens said that the mother of two regrets her former partner died but had not accepted responsibility for his death.
"There is no doubt that the activity of the defendant and the fracas was not purely defensive," noted the judge, adding that she had lost self-control on the night. However, Mr Justice Owens said it was relevant that the accused woman had been "assaulted, beaten and treated roughly" by the deceased on other occasions and this must have reflected her judgment of him.
Inga Ozolina (48) had told detectives that during a row that turned violent, her boyfriend pulled her hair, pushed her towards the floor and begun hitting and biting her. Photographs of her injuries, including two bite marks, were shown to the jury. At Ozolina's sentence hearing, her defence team submitted she was possibly under "deadly attack" at the time.
Inga Ozolina, originally from Latvia, but with an address at Old Court Church, Mountrath, Co Laois, was found not guilty of murder but guilty of the manslaughter of Lithuanian native Audrius Pukas (40) by a jury on May 29 last.
She had pleaded not guilty to murdering Mr Pukas at The Malthouse, Roscrea on November 20, 2016.
A pathologist gave evidence that the father of two died at the scene from a stab wound to his chest. He had also sustained two other knife wounds in the incident.
The trial heard that the couple had a volatile relationship, which was violent at times.
Witnesses gave evidence of seeing Ozolina with various injuries in the past, and she had obtained two safety orders against him. However, these had lapsed at the time of his death.
Ozolina told gardai in her interviews that domestic violence had been an ongoing problem in their relationship, and that she had been in a women’s shelter.
“My life is just a living hell,” she said. “The safety order didn’t stop him assaulting me over and over again.” She had his number saved under "Sadist" in her phone.
Passing sentence this morning, Mr Justice Owens said the jury had accepted that the "killing was in self-defence but the self-defence was found to be excessive".
The judge said Ozolina had suffered some bruising and been bitten by Mr Pukas on the night during "a significant altercation" which had lasted for some time. He pointed out that the defendant had tried to assist her boyfriend when he was dying before she left her apartment in "a panicked state" to go to Roscrea Garda Station.
Mr Justice Owens said Ozolina resiled from her previous explanation of what had happened on the night in her interviews with gardai. "She claimed Mr Pukas had impaled himself on the knife," he said.
The judge emphasised that Ozolina continues to maintain to the probation services that the killing was an accident. "She regrets he died but does not accept responsibility for his death," he continued.
Before delivering the sentence this morning, Mr Justice Owens said that Ozolina was away from her family and two daughters at the time and holding down two jobs in Ireland. Mr Pukas was an alcoholic whose previous marriage had failed and formed a relationship with the defendant, he explained, adding that the deceased had perpetrated a number of assaults on her. The judge said temporary protection orders had been obtained against Mr Pukas but Ozolina had let him back into her apartment. "There was evidence he had a violent temper and was loud and aggressive during arguments," he indicated.
Having regard to the gravity of the offence, the judge said it was a serious matter and sentencing must reflect this.
Aggravating factors in the case included the fact Ozolina had produced a large knife in the course of an altercation and inflicted two significant wounds when her boyfriend was unarmed.
"I will never know the precise basis on which the jury came to their conclusion," he said, adding that they may have concluded the defendant did not mean to seriously injure Mr Pukas and the court must give her the benefit of any reasonable doubt. The judge said he must also take into account the large number of other injuries to Mr Pukas which resulted in the fatal event. "There is no doubt the activity of the defendant and the fracas was not purely defensive," he said.
However, the judge said it was also relevant that Ozolina was assaulted, beaten and treated roughly by Mr Pukas on other occasions and this must have reflected her judgment of him on the night. The argument took place in the middle of the night and the deceased had outstayed his welcome in the defendant's home, he commented, adding that things had "got out of hand with fatal results". The injuries to Mr Pukas show that the defendant was the aggressor and point to a loss of self-control, he remarked.
The judge said the appropriate headline sentence to reflect the culpability and harm was seven years in prison.
Mitigating factors in sentencing, Mr Justice Owens said, were her good character, her minor previous conviction for a public order offence which he was disregarding, good references from employers and the fact she was unlikely to offend again.
Referring to the defendant, the judge said she regrets Mr Pukas' death even if she does not admit full culpability.
As a result of the mitigating circumstances, the judge said he would reduce the headline sentence from seven years to five years in prison. Following this, he said he would suspend part of the sentence in order to encourage rehabilitation.
Mr Justice Owens then sentenced Ozolina to five years in prison with one year suspended, backdated to May 29, 2019 when she went into custody.
The defendant gave little reaction before she was led away by prison officers.