PF v Gayle Hunter and Elsie Hunter

At Jedburgh Sheriff Court on 29 June 2015, Sheriff Kevin Drummond QC sentenced Gayle Hunter to two months imprisonment and imposed a Community Payback Order on her mother Elsie Hunter after the two accused made false allegations of domestic abuse.

On sentencing, Sheriff Drummond made the following statement in court:

“For anyone in any circumstances to a make a deliberately false complaint of criminal conduct against another person to the police is a truly wicked thing to do. To make such a complaint knowingly is to put into operation a course of events over which they have no control.

It is the public duty of the police to investigate complaints of criminal conduct and to report the result of their investigations to the Procurator Fiscal who will decide whether or not that conduct merits prosecution and, if appropriate to bring that allegation and the accused to court.

If prosecution follows it can, in the final analysis, result in the loss of liberty of the person complained against if the lie is persisted in.

All of this is obvious in general terms, but in particular in the social and legal climate in our jurisdiction today, and in the circumstances of this case, it is well known that there is a public prosecution policy in the public interest to take a particular approach to issues of domestic abuse.

Where there is a deliberate attempt to manipulate the application of that policy by the making of false allegations of criminal conduct; that is behaviour which strikes at the system of justice itself.

The accused Gail Hunter in this case admits (i) That she lied to the police (ii) That she asked her mother to lie to the police to support her original lie.

These admissions of lying were made in the first place only after it became clear that the lie was under investigation and secondly, and importantly, a number of weeks after the victim of the lie had been detained by the police, interviewed, charged, spent some 16 hours in custody and was brought before the court. He pleaded not guilty and the whole process of justice was underway in relation to the charge.

The first accused in this case, Gail Hunter, the originator of the lie and the instigator of procuring the second accused Elsie Hunter, her mother, also to lie to the police in support of the original lie, while she now admits the lie, and which she could scarcely do otherwise in the face of the evidence, still attempts to both exculpate herself and mitigate her position by saying, and I quote, “…I am saying that my solicitor [that is her solicitor in the related civil proceedings] told me to invent a story….I would not have done otherwise.”… I note that she makes no such assertion to the author of the social enquiry report before me today.

It is important in this context to point out that her entire evidence in the case was liberally populated by lies, deception, half truths and attempts to denigrate others.

For example, she attempts to paint a picture of herself as caring only and exclusively for the welfare of her child. She said in evidence that in her relevant phone call with the child that the child was “….upset, crying quietly, and wanted home: her father was shouting and swearing at the child in the background ‘…get off the fucking phone’.., grabbed the phone off her and the child ran to her bed crying.” In contrast, in her statement to the police she said this “….I asked (the child) if she wanted to come home and she told me to decide.”

There is no reference to the child crying. I am unable to accept anything which the accused said in evidence unless it is supported by other objective truthful evidence.”

She continues to paint herself as a victim of abuse and there has to be a suspicion that, as was alleged, she continues to use the child as a source to advance her personal vendetta with her former partner.

The charge of which she has been convicted is a grave one. She is plainly the prime mover and her mother, her co-accused, has been caught up in the vendetta.

The second accused, her mother, has the limited credit of eventually writing to the Procurator Fiscal to admit that she had lied: she did not do so until it was plain that the lie was unravelling. That credit is diminished if not extinguished by the fact that she restricted the admission of the lie and compounded the lie by maintaining the truth of the earlier assertion: she did so by telling a second lie.

Finally I should add this: the Crown have been faced with criticism for the way in which some of the prosecutions of domestic abuse cases have been handled.

It is proper that the Crown should be commended for the way in which it has investigated and presented the present case.

It is also proper that the public should be aware that abuses such as these will be fully investigated in order that there can be public confidence in the approach which the Crown have adopted to cases of this kind.

In the case of Gail Hunter I consider that the gravity of the offence requires that it be dealt with by a custodial sentence. You will go to prison for two months. With regard to Elsie Hunter, with some hesitation I have concluded that unpaid work in the community as a direct alternative to custody is appropriate. You will carry out 200 hours of unpaid work in the community under a Community Payback Order with a supervision requirement which will subsist for 12 months.”