Appropriate to hear charges of sexual offences together where complainants were related

By: Bakshi Mohit BL

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Court of Appeal dismisses appeal against conviction on two counts of sexual assault, where the accused was acquitted on several other counts, on the grounds that: (a) it had been appropriate to try charges relating to different complainants together where the allegations were of the same nature; (b)  there was no error on the part of the trial judge in refusing to withdraw a further count from the jury; and (c) there was probative value in the accounts of different family members despite the fact that they were likely to have discussed the matter.

Donnelly J: Criminal Law –sexual assault – complainants are appellant’s two granddaughters – appeal against conviction – twenty-two counts on the indictment – fifteen counts related to elder granddaughter – appellant convicted of two counts and was acquitted by direction of the trial judge of eleven counts in respect of the first complainant – jury disagreed on further two counts in respect of the first complainant – other seven counts related to younger granddaughter and was acquitted on all counts – fact that this was a joint trial in which he was acquitted of the majority of the counts, especially all counts in respect of the second complainant, forms the factual context for the grounds of appeal – all twenty-two counts arose from incidents which allegedly took place upstairs in the appellant’s home – application to sever the indictment between the two complainants was refused – first complainant gave evidence at trial that abuse occurred on five or six separate occasions when either or both grandparents would collect them from school and bring her to their home to be minded – mother gave evidence in respect of the complainant disclosing the abuse to her – appellant also gave evidence denying that any abuse took place – whether the indictment should have been severed between the two complainants as failing to do so prejudiced the appellant’s right to a fair trial – whether the trial judge should have directed a verdict of not guilty in respect of all counts relating to the second complainant, the refusal of which denied the defence strong grounds for an application to discharge the jury – whether the verdicts of the jury on the two counts on which they convicted by majority were perverse, as there was nothing to distinguish those counts from the counts on which the jury disagreed – allegations of the complainants in this case were of the same nature – differences did not affect the fact that these were allegations of offences of the same nature – no error on the part of the trial judge in refusing to withdraw a further count from the jury – this case does not come anywhere near the threshold for demonstrating that the verdict was perverse – appeal dismissed.

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