I chaired the trial today of a chap accused of two counts of section 39 assault by beating. More often referred to as common assault on his partner, ie. domestic violence.
The defendant chose, as was his right, to defend himself.
I don't intend to go into the details of the alleged offences. Suffice to say it wasn't pleasant. What I would share with you is the way in which the trial was conducted.
The prosecution called, amongst others, his partner and their two children, both boys, one of seven years and the other eight years. Their evidence was considered vital to the prosecution case as they were witnesses to both incidents. Usual precautions were taken in that the children were examined by live video link rather than face to face in the Court room.
Unfortunately, the defendant had no regard for their tender years, and following a very gentle examination in chief by the prosecutor, the defendant tore into them with such ferocity that we had to halt the trial on several occasions to advise him regarding his cross examination technique. He just managed to stay on the right side of the divide however, and we were unable to interfere sufficiently with his examination of each of the children that he reduced them both to tears. The prosecutor had done her best to put them at ease in what must have been a bewildering experience and it seemed that the defendant took great delight in wrecking what little confidence and trust of the Court that they had. In fact, the eldest, at one point, said "Why don't you love me any more daddy?" The defendant also managed to sneak in the comment "Wait until I get you at home" to the youngest. He had the sense not to try that one again but had plenty of other stunts.
The partner had agreed for the children to give evidence first so that their ordeal would be over as quickly as possible and was therefore forced to remain outside the Courtroom, although she could apparently clearly hear the children crying via the video-link. Something we didn't discover until she came to give her own evidence.
Both the injured party's parents were in Court as was the father of the defendant, each of whom were reduced to tears by the viciousness of the defendant's comments in examination.
She had been offered the chance of a screen but had refused as she thought the defendant had the right to see his accuser.
If we thought the children had had it rough, his cross-examination of his partner was nothing short of brutal and it quickly became clear that he was scoring points rather than conducting a valid cross-examination. The prosecutor was on his feet almost permanently, objecting to the inquisition. The injured party was reduced to, quite frankly, a gibbering wreck.
Late this afternoon, the prosecutor, after having called several other witnesses, explained that there were no agreed statements to be read as the defendant had insisted upon the attendance of every single witness and with that, closed the prosecution case.
Our clerk then invited the defendant to open his defence case, at which point, with a smirk on his face he said
"Oh no, I've had my say and I've got what I wanted. You don't get the chance to have a pop at me. I'll change my plea to guilty."
Luckily, his threat to the youngest child allowed us to remand him in custody, even against the background of the crass new rules for remand.
The press were not allowed to report his name owing to the over-riding requirement to protect the identity of the children.
The Court awaits a pre sentence report.