Acquittal of Domestic Violence Allegation
Mansfield criminal solicitor Melanie Hoffman recently represented a client at a trial for allegations of domestic violence before Mansfield Magistrates’ Court. He faced charges of assaulting both his his estranged wife and teenage daughter during a visit to the former matrimonial home.
In police interview Mel’s client had answered questions, raising self defence on both counts without the benefit of legal advice. This account was maintained at his first Magistrates’ Court appearance and he entered not guilty pleas.
Pressure from the Bench
These pleas were entered despite pressure being applied by the court in the form of an indication that custody would be the likely outcome in the event of conviction after trial. Alternatively, there was mention of a community order following an early guilty plea.
Mel’s client did not give in to this pressure, maintaining his instructions. As a result, Mel began her detailed trial preparation. This thorough examination of the statements highlighted a number of inconsistencies in the prosecution written witness statements and video interviews. This preparation allowed the careful editing of the video to ensure that information that was not relevant to the trial issue and would prejudice her client was removed.
Special Measure for Witnesses in Domestic Violence
At trial, Mel pursued a line of sensitive but meticulous cross-examination of both ex-wife and child witness. The former had the benefit of being screened from Mel’s client, the latter was questioned across a video link. This measures are common place in such trials.
During this questioning the inconsistencies previously noted by Mel during her case preparation began to emerge.
Mel’s client gave evidence on his own behalf. This was consistent with the explanation that he had given to the police in interview several months before.
Detailed Closing Speech
In her closing speech, Mel’s grasp of the case allowed her to take the Magistrates through the detail of the case, highlighting what she believed amounted to significant inconsistencies between the accounts of the prosecution witnesses. This was usefully contrasted with the consistent account given by her client. Mel also reminded the Magistrates that they would have to take into account her client’s good character, relevant to whether he was telling the truth and likely to have committed the offences.
She submitted that this combination of factors meant that the prosecution had not made the Magistrates sure of her client’s guilt. The Magistrates agreed with Mel’s representations and found her client not guilty of both charges. In their reasons they explained that owing to the inconsistencies high-lighted by Mel they weren’t sure that the defendant had acted in the manner alleged.
Restraining Order Refused
Unfortunately, there is now the opportunity for the prosecution to apply for a Restraining Order even where a person is found not guilty of all of the offences of domestic violence. The Crown chose to make such an application here, but Mel successfully opposed this application on the basis of the difficulties with the original evidence and the fact that there had been no suggestion of difficulties in the months between the allegation being made and trial.
Contact Melanie Hoffman
Are you at risk of losing your good name as a result of criminal allegations? Do you face allegations of domestic violence? If you wish to discuss a police investigation or court proceedings with Mel then please telephone her on 01623 675816 or email her here.