Safeguarding vulnerable and intimidated witnesses at court: are the ‘special measures’ working?
If the prosecutor’s case was to be believed, this was a series of very nasty domestic assaults. Sally, a 30-year-old single parent, had been in a relationship with Jake, a younger man, for some six months. It had always been a stormy relationship and on her birthday Jake was abusive to her, culminating in him getting a knife from the kitchen drawer and threatening to kill himself. Sally wrestled the knife from him and when she called the police, he ran off. The police arrived and advised Sally, by now very frightened, to lock herself in her house. Her daughter was staying with Tom, her father, for the day and now she rang Tom for help while she checked that all the windows were closed. As she finished the phone call, she heard a familiar voice: it was Jake, who had re-entered the house through an open window, and now grappled with her and threw her to the floor. He then dragged her into the bedroom, where she managed to escape, only to be pursued by him with an axe, with which he threatened to kill Tom. He then assaulted her once more before disappearing with the axe and some of his belongings. Now secure in her house, Sally later received a phone call from an apparently crestfallen Jake. He was outside the door: could he come in, just to collect his remaining belongings? Eventually Sally relented, whereupon Jake pushed past her and grabbed her by the throat, threatening to kill her. After collecting his remaining clothes, he left the house with the keys to her car, in which he drove off into the night.