The Magistrate's Blog (2005-2012)

This blog has migrated to www.magistratesblog.blogspot.co.uk This blog is anonymous, and Bystander's views are his and his alone. Where his views differ from the letter of the law, he will enforce the letter of the law because that is what he has sworn to do. If you think that you can identify a particular case from one of the posts you are wrong. Enough facts are changed to preserve the truth of the tale but to disguise its exact source.

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Location: Near London, United Kingdom

The blog is written by a retired JP, with over 30 years' experience on the Bench.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Who Is Telling The Truth?

Allegations of domestic violence are the basis of quite a few trials these days, and I chaired one a few months ago. As usual the only two people who knew exactly what happened were the defendant and his alleged victim, there being no independent witnesses. The wife had to be served with a witness summons to get her to court, and she looked stressed and tense as she gave her evidence. She went through the sadly ordinary details of her deteriorating marriage, and the fairly trivial dispute that led to the incident. The police had photographed her injuries, amounting to abrasions and a bloodied lip. The husband then gave evidence, and much of his account tallied with his wife's, apart from his denial that he had hit her and his assertion that she must have injured herself in the tussle that followed their row. We went through a structured decision-making process, setting aside all of the agreed facts and concentrating on the crucial disputed ones. The only indisputable evidence before us was the photographs, and we concluded that the injuries were consistent with the wife's account and that the husband's claim that she had inflicted them on herself was just not possible. So guilty it was, and we put the case off for a pre-sentence report, indicating a likely (but not certain) community penalty, possibly including the IDAP domestic violence programme. Another bench sentenced the man three weeks later and I have no idea what they did, but my guess is that they would have followed our approach with an order for supervision, unpaid work and the IDAP.
There will have been many cases like this last week, and there will be more next week and the week after that. Society's attitude to domestic violence has undergone a major shift in the last couple of decades, and the justice system has shifted with it.