PCD Solicitors successfully defended a driving instructor who was accused of a series of serious sexual assaults by his female student. Mr A had been a driving instructor for 15 years, no complaint or allegation had ever been made against him, in fact all of his students spoke very highly of him and even came to court to provide evidence on his behalf. PCD Solicitors were instructed at the outset of his case, we represented the client at both the Magistrates and Crown Court.The case concluded with a verdict of not guilty given by an unanimous jury.
It was alleged that Mr A had started to make inappropriate sexual comments towards his student which started from the day of her initial driving lesson and happened every lesson thereafter. It was alleged that the comments progressed to the inappropriate touching of both her leg and neck. The student agreed in trial to having had approximately 56 hours worth of lessons with Mr A, this therefore potentially indicated she had been sexually assaulted in excess of 56 times at a minimum.
The day before the students driving test and after a lesson, Mr A asked whether he could use the toilet in her home. No one else was present and despite the sexual assaults taking place during the lessons, the student allowed for Mr A to come in and go to the bathroom whilst she waited in the kitchen. As he was leaving she says that he trapped her in a corner and sexually touched her both over and under clothing whilst attempting to kiss her mouth, the student referred to this as an attempt to rape her in her 999 call made to police two years after the incident.
Following the complaint being named Mr A was arrested and interviewed. He declined legal representation in interview and denied the allegations in their entirety. He was later charged with sexual assault and received a date to attend the Magistrates Court.
Sexual Assault - the law
A person (A) commits a sexual assault if A:
1. intentionally touches another person (B); and
2. The circumstances are that the touching was sexual; and
3. The other person B did not consent to it; and
4. A did not reasonably believe that B consented.
There are various defences to the offence of sexual assault:
The touching was not intentional;
The touching was not sexual;
The other person (B) consented to the touching;
A reasonably believed that B consented; or
The touching did not happen at all
In the circumstances of this case, the issues were whether the touching happened at all, either in the car or in the house of the complainant. This was the decision for the jury on hearing all of the evidence in the case.
Initial discussions with PCD Solicitors
Mr A initially spoke with Jessica who listened, and provided him with detailed advice. Jessica explained all the options available to Mr A and the ways in which PCD Solicitors would work towards defending his case. This was a case that ultimately came down to one persons word against another. However, there were various enquiries, issues and applications that had to be addressed in this case to assist Mr A and prove his innocence.
At the outset of speaking with a client it should always be established whether they have any previous convictions or police cautions. Where a defendant has no previous convictions, cautions or reprimands a good character direction to the jury should be given by the judge. Being of good character is not a defence to an offence but it is helpful to a defendant in two ways:
First, where a defendant has given evidence at his trial, their good character is positive feature which should be taken into account in their favour when considering whether the jury accept what they are being told by them. Secondly, the fact that a defendant has not offended in the past, makes it less likely they have acted in a way in which the prosecution allege at trial.
What importance a jury attaches to the good character of a defendant and to the extent to which is assists on the facts of a particular case is a decision for the jury. In making this assessment the jury would take everything into account that they hear about the defendant.
In this particular case we examined every account given to different people by the complainant. We noted several inconsistencies with an aim to show that the complainant was lying. It was important we clearly explained the various accounts to the jury, the inconsistencies and questioned the complainant about them.
Previous character of the complainant
Through preparation and speaking with various witnesses, the defence had reason to believe the complainant had made allegations against another man around a similar time, these allegations has not been reported to the police.
Previous allegations that have not been reported to the police are difficult to bring into a trial and put before a jury for various reasons. Government have enacted S.42 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 which implements strict rules relating to the cross examination of witnesses/complainants. In this particular trial the rules in place prohibited the questioning of the complainants previous sexual history evidence and previous sexual history without the judges permission. To obtain permission to question the complainant the defence would have to make an application.
PCD Solicitors worked hard to over come this prohibition and through alternative gateways an application to the judge to admit the evidence was successful. The jury did hear about the previous allegations that the complainant had made which were not recorded with police or any other authority. This was a significant part of the trial, the meticulous preparation and knowledge of the Criminal Procedure Rules allowed for us to succeed and overcome this obstacle.
Obtaining supporting evidence
The defence examined all accounts given including that of Mr A and then set out to obtain evidence to support this.
- The complainant had stated throughout her account various dates of lessons and her driving test, of which she carried out two examinations under the instruction of Mr A. The dates were incorrect, we obtained confirmation of test bookings to show this to the jury.
- Character references were obtained to further the good character of Mr A. We concentrated on references from his students, particularly young females.
- Requests for school/college records were made so the defence could establish whether there was a change in the complainant’s demeanour around the time she was taking her lessons. Her best friend who was a witness for the prosecution and within her statement had stated the complainant had become withdrawn during her lessons, this prompted our need to view this records.
- Medical records of the complaint in so far as her mental health was concerned. The complainant provided evidence to say how this assault had affected her mental health. This prompted the defence to explore any medical evidence/diagnosis of this.
- Statements in this case were missing, the complainant had referred to discussing this with her parents. Neither of which had been spoken to by police. We raised this during trial preparation, no statements came to fruition.
- We requested a full log of all messages between Mr A and the complainant from Mr A’s mobile phone. They were crucial in showing that the complainant was friendly with Mr A and had even had photos taken with him on completion of her test, the day after he had allegedly subjected her to an 'attempt rape'. Following the complainant's driving test and some months later of her own free will she had text Mr A wishing him a Merry Christmas with kisses. Behaviour you would not expect from a person who had been subjected to such horrific sexual assaults.
The defence selected material and prepared a jury bundle. This bundle allowed the jury to physically see the supporting evidence and keep it with them throughout the trial and whilst deliberating the case.
Following a three day trial Mr A was found not guilty by an unanimous jury in just under one hour. This allegation will understandably stay with him for the rest of his life and make continuing his career as a driving instructor difficult as he will now be wary of every student he teaches. However, we wish him well and hope he overcomes this very difficult period and does move on.
To conclude Mr A’s case we will notify the DVSA of the outcome on his behalf and will be taking steps to obtain a costs order in respect of the Magistrates court hearing, this means Mr A will be entitled to some of his costs back and in addition, we will be making an application for his arrest record to be deleted.
How can we help you?
At PCD Solicitors we specialise in all types of sexual offences. We pride ourselves on our knowledge, preparation and dedication to our clients. If you would like a free initial consultation with one of our lawyers, please contact us on 0151 705 8488.