6 June 2024

Award-winning builder avoids jail for assaulting heavily pregnant partner

| Albert McKnight

Brendan Lionel Howe, 35, arrives at court to be sentenced on Thursday. Photo: Albert McKnight.

CONTENT WARNING: This article refers to domestic violence.

For a decade, Brendan Lionel Howe ran an award-winning building company in Canberra. But behind closed doors, he spent years abusing his ex-partner, including assaulting her while she was heavily pregnant.

He pleaded guilty to three counts of assault and one count of damaging property regarding the abuse he inflicted from 2018 to 2022 before the now-35-year-old was sentenced by the ACT Supreme Court on Thursday (6 June).

His ex had thought he was intoxicated when he came home one night, and she told him it was irresponsible for him to be that way when she was eight months pregnant.

Howe grabbed her by her shoulders, pushed her against a door, lifted her off the ground for almost a minute and verbally abused her, including referring to her unborn child as “that little c-t inside of you”.

“I rule the roost of this house. You should worship the f-ing ground I walk on. You’re a f-ing bitch. You’re a mutt. I’m the boss,” he said.

He left but returned a short time later, pushing her into a corridor and putting his arm across her chest, making her feel like her breathing was impacted.

“If you try to f-ing leave me, I’ll kill you,” he told her.

“You don’t f-ing tell me what to do. I’m the provider. If I wanna be home late, I’m gonna f-ing be home late. Get over it.”

READ ALSO Bed sheets tied together and used to rappel out window in attempted prison break

Several years earlier, Howe had been squeezing pimples on the skin of one of their dogs when his ex told him to stop because she thought it was hurting the animal.

He grabbed her, pushed her against a cabinet and said, “Don’t f-ing push me to the point I’ll do something I’ll regret”.

“I pay for those dogs, so I’ll do whatever I f-ing want. You don’t tell me what to do,” he said.

Howe also threatened to kill her in 2021, then hit a kitchen door during an argument later that year, causing an indentation.

two men leaving court

Brendan Lionel Howe (right) arrives at court with his solicitor, Michael Kukulies-Smith of Kamy Saeedi Law (left). Photo: Albert McKnight.

In a statement for the court, his ex, who has consented to being identifiable in media reports, said she spent years living in fear and described his temper as “frightening and out of control”.

“Leaving your abuser and having the strength to report it is like lighting a match and setting your own life on fire,” she said.

“Your treatment of me is shameful and devastating. But you never thought so. Ever.

“You, Brendan, have never apologised for what you did to me.”

On Thursday, Justice Louise Taylor said the ex had given a “powerful account” of the effect of violence in a relationship.

“The community speaks with one voice when it condemns family violence,” she said.

She said the offences showed his desire to dominate and frighten his ex as well as his “sense of entitlement”. She also described his words as showing his “inflated sense of self-importance”.

The judge said the ex had been vulnerable when she had been eight months’ pregnant and described Howe’s comment about her unborn child as “truly awful”.

READ ALSO 86-year-old remanded in custody over alleged murder of his wife, Wanda Uhle

Howe wrote a letter for the court in which he said he deeply regretted his behaviour and the harm it caused. He also said he had been undergoing psychological treatment for the past 18 months, which helped him manage his emotions more effectively.

But Justice Taylor said while she accepted he felt regret, his letter didn’t show genuine remorse. He also hadn’t demonstrated victim empathy.

“The lack of genuine remorse is consistent with his sense of entitlement and his inflated sense of importance,” the judge said.

However, she was satisfied he had good prospects of rehabilitation and was at a low risk of reoffending.

Howe, who spent two days in custody after he was arrested, was convicted and sentenced to seven months’ jail, which was immediately suspended for a one-year good behaviour order.

He was also fined $1800 and must complete 50 hours of community service.

If this story has raised any concerns for you, 1800RESPECT, the national 24-hour sexual assault, family and domestic violence counselling line, can be contacted on 1800 737 732. Help and support are also available through the Canberra Rape Crisis Centre on 02 6247 2525, the Domestic Violence Crisis Service ACT 02 6280 0900, and Lifeline on 13 11 14. In an emergency, call Triple Zero.

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.