Judge refuses sign interpreter for ‘selective mute’

A judge has refused to engage a sign language interpreter in the case of man claiming to be deaf-mute, who is set to appeal convictions involving an angry outburst following arrest for unrelated offences. This is the second time a court has refused to facilitate the accused’s claims of requiring such assistance, which he previously aserted when the case was heard and at which he was convicted.
Abraham Jakobovits (42) from Fortwilliam Gardens, Belfast is currently remanded in custody accused of burgling two churches in Fivemiletown. Following arrest for these matters and brought to Dungannon Courthouse on 22 December, he violently turned on police and custody officers.
Previously, Dungannon Magistrates Court was told Jakobovits communicates by writing notes. But after hearing excerpts from police statements, it was decided by the judge sitting that day, the communication issues are “elective” and assistance is not required.
Having been convicted, an appeal was lodged at Dungannon County Court.
Today (Friday) during a review hearing a defending lawyer requested a sign-language interpreter is obtained for the appeal, on the recommendation of a psychiatrist who examined Jakobovits.
He said, “I am instructed to seek the court to secure the services of a sign language interpreter to assist my client at his appeal.”
But Judge Stephen Fowler QC replied, “It is my understanding this defendant is selective in his claims to be deaf and mute. There is no evidence to show he is either. Nor is there any evidence he understands sign language. I do not therefore to accede to the application.”
The appeal will take place later this month.
It was the second time a judge has rejected an application to facilitate Jakobovits with a sign-language interpreter.
Previously, lawyers were adamant Jakobovits “can’t, not won’t, speak”.
In order to settle the matter, District Judge John Meehan heard evidence from officers who dealt with the defendant in custody.
Jakobovits had become agitated, directing his anger at police and custody staff.
There was complete refusal to calm down, and Jakobovits was spitting and swearing.
Whilst being restrained on the ground, Jakobovits bit an officer, requiring him to be treated in hospital with anti-Tetanus and Hepatitis B injections, and tested for HIV.
Having heard from the officers and after reading police statements, Judge Meehan ruled, “He (Jakobovits) is perfectly able to speak, and with a good grasp of profanity.”
At this, Jakobovits – seated in the dock and denying the charges on the basis he never spoke – passed a note to prison staff demanding to be returned to the cells.
He “voluntarily refused to participate further.”
The hearing continued in his absence with defence lawyers continuing to assert he never spoke.
Judge Meehan convicted on all charges.
Imposing a 10 month prison sentence, the judge said, “He refused to speak, claiming to be mute. He most definitely can hear and speak.
“The contempt he displays is remarkable. He has played the justice system for his own ends. He has an appalling record and this incident was in the court precincts.”
A request for an extension of Legal Aid to cover barrister fees was thrown out with Judge Meehan stating, “He asks for public funds to argue his case then refuses to engage. It’s not credible.”
In the days following conviction, Jakobovits sacked his lawyers and subsequently engaged a new legal team, who immediately lodged an appeal against conviction.
This is scheduled for hearing later this month, and on the back of Judge Fowler’s ruling, will not involve the services of a sign-language interpreter, thereby rejecting Jakobovits’ deaf-mute claims.

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