PF v BILL WALKER
At Edinburgh Sheriff Court Sheriff Kathrine Mackie found Bill Walker guilty. Sentence will take place on 20 September at the same court.
On announcing the verdict Sheriff Mackie made the follow remarks in court:
"Trial in this case proceeded before me over some 10 days. Following closing submissions I reserved my decision. I have now considered all the evidence relied upon by the Crown and the submissions made by the Procurator Fiscal. I have also considered all the evidence led on behalf of the defence and the submissions made by Mr Martin. At this stage it is not about the legal sufficiency of the evidence. It was accepted in relation to 22 of the charges and I determined in relation to the remaining 2 charges that there was a sufficiency of evidence to justify a conviction. In order to determine whether the charges have been proved it has been necessary to assess the quality, strength and effect of the evidence. It is of course for the Crown to prove the charges, beyond reasonable doubt, and unless and until the Crown does so the accused is presumed to be innocent.
There was evidence showing the accused to be controlling, domineering, demeaning and belittling towards the three complainers, his former wives. The evidence also showed him to be untrustworthy, disloyal and unfaithful towards others including his present wife. Whether I accepted that evidence and however abhorrent, unacceptable and abusive such behaviour might be it does not amount to a criminal offence.
The complaint against the accused is not that he behaved abusively but that he committed criminal offences of assault, on 23 occasions, and on one occasion, breach of the peace. The offences are said to have occurred while in an intimate relationship with each of the complainers.
The principal witnesses for the Crown were the complainers. In summary, the Procurator Fiscal invited me to accept their evidence as both credible and reliable and to consider the evidence as a whole. The similar pattern of behaviour towards each complainer was relied upon. The defence submitted that, except where the accused has acknowledged that an incident occurred, albeit mainly by providing a different version from that alleged by the complainers, the allegations are fabricated by malice. Inconsistencies in recollection require to be considered against the lapse of time since the alleged events. The evidence of continued and renewed intimate relationships with the accused, it was submitted, casts doubt upon the credibility and reliability of the complainers.
In assessing the evidence of the complainers I have had regard to what they said, their demeanour and how their evidence compared with the other evidence that I have heard in the case. I would observe that why a woman stays in or returns to an abusive relationship is a complex issue not easily understood by the rational observer. It does not in my opinion mean that that woman’s evidence of the relationship necessarily lacks credibility.
I found all the Crown witnesses, and in particular the three principal complainers, credible and reliable. The credibility of Diana Walker was challenged by reference to a court report prepared in connection with proceedings relating to her son. I accepted her explanation for not being honest in her description of the accused. I noted that in the report of the Child Protection procedure, also lodged by the accused, that a more colourful description was given. Where there were differences between their accounts of events I preferred the complainers’ accounts. I did not find the accused to be a credible witness. I rejected his contention that the complainers’ have fabricated their evidence. The accused’s witnesses were unable to speak to the essential facts. Given that the accused’s brother was unaware of his wife’s make up habits after 35 years of marriage I did not find his observations about Maureen Traquair’s appearance at her wedding to the accused in 1967 to be either credible or reliable.
The accused, in his evidence, accepted that he had acted as libelled in charge three. He accepted that he and the complainer were in a motor vehicle, that he had leaned over pinning her to the seat by the weight of his body, that he had grabbed her left hand and forcibly removed a ring from her finger. He demonstrated that the complainer had formed a fist and that he had prised open, or uncurled, the complainer’s fingers in order to remove the ring. In my opinion, while I preferred the evidence of the complainer, it is irrelevant whether the ring had been gifted to the complainer following her agreement to remarry the accused, as she maintained, or that he was taking back something to which he considered he was entitled, as was submitted on his behalf, although during his interview the accused did say that he had given the ring to the complainer. It is also irrelevant whether the ring was a normal or loose fit. On the accused’s admission the complainer did not give the ring to him willingly. He took it from her finger against her will. He took it from her forcibly. I accepted the complainer’s evidence that the forcible removal of the ring caused injury. In my opinion that is undoubtedly an assault.
In relation to charge five the accused accepted that he acted as libelled by repeatedly striking his stepdaughter on the head with a saucepan. Surprisingly he had some difficulty in understanding that repeatedly simply means more than once. The accused claims that being under attack by his stepdaughter he acted in self-defence. The complainer and the accused agreed that his stepdaughter intervened between them apparently believing that her mother was in need of protection. The accused claims that his stepdaughter punched him with such force that a crowned tooth was broken and the post dislodged and that she was “all knees and arms”, although it was not clarified what that meant. He struck her on the head with the saucepan until the handle broke. At the time the accused was aged about 36 years and his stepdaughter was aged about 17 years. He described her unflatteringly as a “big” girl. He said that he was about 6’ 2’’ tall and she was about 5’ 6’’. In cross-examination he accepted that there was nothing to prevent him leaving the room. I did not find the accused’s version of events credible. Even if, which I did not accept, the accused was under attack from his stepdaughter, I did not accept that it was necessary to resort to violence. He was the adult. He could have walked away. In any event the violence used was excessive. I rejected the accused’s claim that he acted in self-defence. There was however no evidence that he struck his stepdaughter on the body and those words should be deleted from the libel.
In order to prove the remaining charges the Crown relied upon the doctrine of mutual corroboration. The behaviour libelled occurred within the context of intimate relationships with the complainers. There was an underlying similarity in the conduct. I am satisfied that there were sufficient similarities in time place and circumstances in the behaviour which I have found proved in terms of the libel as to demonstrate that the individual incidents are component parts of one course of criminal conduct pursued by the accused. In relation to charges four and twenty I did not accept the accused’s account and I was not persuaded that the essentials of self-defence were made out.
For the foregoing reasons I am satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty of all charges subject to the deletion in charge 5".