A number of fleeting thoughts cycle through my mind. Right now, I despise the accused, who sits in silence as the video is played, looking at either the judge, the floor or the wall opposite. The woman, of a small build, didn’t stand a chance. What cowardly piece of shit does this? I imagine him being smashed around by someone twice his size. Whimpering. Begging for it to stop. Would I intervene in such circumstances, or walk on by? And what does my answer to that question say about me? I push these thoughts aside, and focus on my job.
A police interview with the man, shortly after he has been brought to the police station, is also screened. I note that I cannot see a scratch on his face or his hands. He is not accompanied by a lawyer. He answers a series of questions, but when the queries veer towards what happened between him and the claimant, he shuts down and says he has been advised not to comment.
The crown calls the claimant to give evidence. She does this via video link, as the nature of the charges mean she is not required to front her alleged attacker. The alleged victim oozes a weary resignation, and concedes she has struggled at times with drug and alcohol abuse.
Modern convention means the defence thinks twice before attempting to shame a woman in the witness box. The claimant is made to admit, though, that because of these drug and alcohol issues she lost custody of her young child in the period before the alleged events occurred.
In describing the alleged sexual assaults and cause of her injuries, the woman claims that midway through the attack, as the accused was dragging her by the hair down the hallway of his house, he stopped to urinate on her. It is a detail she had not shared in previous interviews, and the defence pounces on it to suggest she is making the story up.
The defence barrister calls the accused to give evidence. He walks from his box on the other side of the court to the witness box, and for the first time we get to see that he is over 6ft tall. He is sworn in, and is sitting so close to me that if we both leaned over we could shake hands. I swing my chair to face him directly. He catches my eye only once or twice. What am I looking for? Am I listening? Properly. Listening. To. Every. Word? What are my fellow jurors doing behind me? Are they glaring at him? What did he just say? What is the judge doing? Am I being distracted by my own thoughts? This man’s future sits in the palm of our hands. I wonder what’s for lunch? More sandwiches, I suppose.
The defence barrister tells us that the accused is not required to give evidence, and that he is obliged to prove nothing.
The accused explains that the gaffer tape had been wrapped around the claimant’s head by the claimant’s young child as a punishment for using bad language. Speaking in a near-monotone, he also says that he and the woman had consensual sex before she was injured, and that her injuries were the result of him having to remove her from his house the following morning by force because she refused to leave.
The accused is cross-examined by the crown barrister, who first establishes that the man is stronger than average, by evidence of his day job. He then puts to the accused another version of events: the accused began bashing the woman shortly after they arrived back at his house, and then proceeded to rape her five times over the course of the night and the following morning, before dragging her out of the house and leaving her to catch a taxi so he could go to work. The man denies it all.