Apologies for the self-indulgence, but shit, this is my blog.
When I last left you, I had been arrested and was looking for a lawyer. My friend gave me the name of one he uses often. I didn’t know until later that he specialises in traffic law. Not exactly what you would think of for a charge of obscene exposure.
Those of you who know me, or at least have followed some of my comments, will know that I strongly advocate the idea that, if the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty, so must the complainant. And perhaps it was this that really screwed with my head. Even though I was the alleged offender, my mind kept prodding me with the idea that you have to accept that the victim is telling the truth. I kept on wondering
Did I really do this and just block it out? Or was my initial reaction when the Police first arrived on my doorstep correct – that I didn’t do it and it is all – at best – a case of the complainant being mistaken?
I put the whole incident out of my mind as much as possible and just got on with things. I had my first appearance in Court to enter no plea while we got on with our investigation, and sought character witnesses. I also sought name suppression (even though no media were present). Now I am normally fairly critical of alleged offenders seeking name suppression, but when I got to Court, these were my first thoughts:
- I have worked with victims of sexual abuse quite a lot in my career, and felt privileged that I could gain their trust enough to work with them and help them;
- If they found out that I was charged with this sort of offence, they could be badly affected – they might feel that this person they trusted is untrustworthy
For me, personally, I long ago stopped caring what anyone thought of me. So my reasons for seeking name-suppression were entirely altruistic. I had, and still do, have a great deal of love for these people who I had the honour of helping. The thought that I might do something to damage their ability to trust was unacceptable. My workmates who read this will fully understand where that is coming from.
It still bothered me that I was left in this quandary. I was the person I normally severely criticised. Anyway, several weeks later, I re-appeared in Court to enter a “Not Guilty” plea. And again carried on. Then, about 3 months after my arrest, the trial. By which time I had almost convinced myself I had done the deed.
On the day of the trial, my mind was a mess. Still living in Breaker Bay, I drove over the hill to Seatoun to catch a bus. I really shouldn’t have. My mind was such a mess that I drove up over the curb on the way.
Fortunately, my family was there to support me. We had a briefing with the lawyer, going over how things work, and how I was supposed to say “Sir” whenever talking with any Court official. How if I was asked what I thought about the allegations, to not say that they were lies but that I felt the complainant was “mistaken”. I wasn’t really prepared to play the “sir” game. It isn’t natural for me, and I knew people would see straight through it. I always prefer to talk in my own semi-casual but highly respectful manner.
The trial process was interesting. There are only a few things that I recall though. The complainant was often in tears (particularly when questioned by the prosecutor). She was asked to turn to look to the back of the Court room to see the clock and be able to tell the time. When I was on the stand, the prosecution asked if I recalled that, and what I thought of it. I said “I’m sorry, sir [the only time I used the word], I couldn’t possibly tell you. All I know is that it tells me she could see that clock in these circumstances”. I really had no idea what I was saying, but apparently it was the best possible thing I could have said. Apparently my lawyer turned to beam at my family.
The character witness bombed out. He was my former manager, and I was absolutely certain I had told him of my beach-nakedness proclivities, and he was reminded of this pre-trial by my lawyer. But when asked if he “knew the defendant was a nudist” he said “No”. Gah!
I was eventually acquitted – albeit because it was a case of he said/she said with no evidence either way. Again, I asked for permanent name suppression and gave my reasons. The judge again said that there are no media in the room so it probably doesn’t matter, but OK.
But what got me really angry was what I found out afterwards.
My brother was sitting at the back of the Courtroom – deliberately so to see everything that was happening. It seems that the husband of the complainant was laughing throughout the trial. In particular while his wife was on the stand in tears. What kind of man laughs when his wife is crying? When she is recounting something that was greatly upsetting?
It wasn’t the money – it cost something like $3,000 – although I was kinda pissed off about that. It was this man’s callous disregard for his wife. It was the vindictiveness. People who have lived in the Bay for years who knew these two people well (but wished they didn’t) were convinced that he pressured her into making a false complaint, convincing her that the event really occurred.
Anyway, I got the bus back home, got to my car to find I had punctured the tyre when I went up on the curb, changed the tyre and got home. and promptly threw up – and kept throwing up for an hour.
There are a couple more stories that follow on from this in the saga of the Bay, but that can be for another time.