Contempt of Court – Cherie Doyle

At the High Court in Glasgow on Tuesday 17 December 2019, Lady Rae sentenced Cherie Doyle to 18 months imprisonment after she was found to be in Contempt of Court.

On sentencing, Lady Rae made the following statement in court:

"You were a significant and important witness in a High Court trial concerning the brutal and unprovoked assault on a man in his own home. The consequences for the victim are life-changing in that he is now permanently blind. A direct consequence of your conduct in the witness box is that the victim has no opportunity to obtain justice.

It was clear from the start of your evidence that you were an uncooperative witness who told lie after lie in an effort to avoid identifying the assailant whom you knew. You repeatedly attempted to deflect questions and volunteered information adverse to the victim and which, I am sure, had no basis whatsoever.

You denied your police statement and accused the police officers who took that statement of being “bent”, to use your word, and you implied that they had effectively made up the contents of the statement. It was apparent that you were not taking the matter seriously and at times, I observed, you were smiling or smirking. You were clearly a reluctant witness and unwilling to assist in this case. In the course of your testimony you repeatedly changed your evidence and, despite a clear warning from me about the potential consequences of committing perjury and prevarication, you continued to lie and vary your evidence. I had no doubt that you were prevaricating and for that reason I found you guilty of contempt of court.

I see from the social work report that you claim you were fearful of the accused and his family although there is no suggestion that you had actually been threatened. It was only the presence of persons in the public benches which apparently caused you concern or so you claim. You expressed no concern to the appropriate authority prior to or during your evidence of your alleged fears. Importantly, as far as I was concerned, you gave no impression of being fearful and had I any impression of that, special arrangements could have been made for you to give evidence more easily.

It is vitally important to the proper administration of justice that witnesses called to give evidence in the High Court of Justiciary answer questions honestly and truthfully and without prevarication. That is an important duty which witnesses have. You repeatedly failed in that duty.

You now accept that you had lied on oath. You are fortunate in this case that the Crown decided not to prosecute you for perjury. My powers of sentence are limited in such cases.

In view of the very serious nature of the case in which you were a witness, the fact that this was a High Court trial and importantly, having regard to the consequences of your blatant contempt, namely the collapse of the trial, I am of the view that I have little option but to impose a custodial sentence.

I shall have regard to the mitigation put before me including your age, the fact that you have never served a custodial sentence and have one relatively minor conviction.

However this was a very serious contempt to the extent I had seriously considered imposing the maximum sentence available in such cases, namely, two years imprisonment. I am however prepared to limit the sentence to one of 18 months imprisonment. I shall backdate that sentence to 27 November 2019 when I remanded you in custody.”