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Domestic assault conviction upheld despite complainer's denial

12 February 2018

A conviction for a domestic assault has been upheld despite the alleged complainer having given evidence at trial that she sustained injury through accidents in the home and the accused had not been present.

Stephen Ingram was convicted on two charges on indictment, both taking place at an address in Dundee: first, one of threatening or abusive behaviour contrary to s 38(1) of the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010, and secondly, assaulting his partner Melissa Edgar by striking her in the face. He appealed on the basis of insufficient evidence of assault on the second charge or of identity on both charges.

Ms Edgar's evidence was that she had been in an on-off relationship with the accused for about 10 years. He had not been present on the night in question. She had been drinking wine while watching a movie and fell asleep. When she woke she tried to phone the accused; she was angry having learned he had gone to Newcastle without telling her. Her phone was linked to the TV and an angry argument could be heard via its speaker. This woke her children and as she went to comfort them she fell, sustaining a nosebleed. She was aware of neighbours shouting and banging on the door, and left blood on a windowsill as she tried to shout back to one of them.

One neighbour gave evidence of hearing a man and woman arguing and of two separate footfalls. She recognised the accused's voice. She heard a cry for help along with thuds and bangs, and another neighbour banging on Ms Edgar's door and shouting “He's battering her”. She called the police, and started recording the incident on her phone. She did not see the accused in the stair but saw him outside at his car; he drove off when told the police were coming. She then saw Ms Edgar injured.

The second neighbour had heard Ms Edgar calling him for help. Her door was locked but she and her children were screaming and he thought an attack was taking place. He saw a car like the accused's drive off as the police arrived. Other neighbours spoke to Ms Edgar appearing injured and very distressed. Police saw the car drive off and one of them identified the accused. There was upturned furniture and other signs of a disturbance in the flat, with blood in different places.

It was argued for the appellant that there was no direct evidence of an assault, or basis on which it could be concluded that she was the victim of an attack with evil intent. The evidence of identification by voice was uncorroborated and it was not sufficient that the appellant had been seen in the vicinity.

Delivering the opinion of the court, Lord Turnbull, who sat with Lady Paton and Lord Brodie, observed that the Crown had been "in the slightly unusual position of not being able to rely on the evidence of the person whom it alleged was the victim in each charge". It relied on circumstantial evidence, and where that was open to more than one interpretation it was precisely the role of the jury to decide which interpretation to adopt.

He continued: "The combined evidence of the witnesses who heard a disturbance and heard Ms Edgar screaming, including screaming for help, the evidence of the state of her property as spoken to by the police, and the evidence of the witnesses who saw the upset and injured condition which she was in, was sufficient in our opinion to entitle the jury to infer that Ms Edgar had been assaulted." The voice identification along with the phone recording established the presence of a male in the property, and taken with the accused's being seen outside and his rapid departure was sufficient for a case to answer.

Click here to view the opinion of the court.

 

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