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Jo C.
Jo C., Barrister
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Experience:  Over 5 years in practice
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My son has been summons to appear as a witness for an ex-girlfriend

Customer Question

My son has been summons to appear as a witness for an ex-girlfriend - he had written a statement back in 2013. He will be abroad on the date they have summoned him, he is visiting his father who lives in Thailand, he doesn't see his father very often so the trip is very important to him. If he were to cancel it would cost him a lot of money. The dates of his trip were given to the court/prosecution last year (trip booked last year) so they know the dates but are saying he will still have to attend. What should he do and what are his rights on this?
He has phoned witness protection and the court both are saying he has to attend otherwise he will get prosecuted! This doesn't seem right considering they had the dates months and months ago.
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Jo C. replied 2 years ago.

Jo C. :

Hi. Thank you for your question. My name is Jo and I will try to help with this. What is the case for, why is he appearing as a witness?

Jo C. :

Just to let you know I’m in court today so I’m unable to respond immediately and there may be a slight delay in getting back to you.

JACUSTOMER-43ot4g9r- :

His girlfriend has made accusations against a family member of sexual harassment/rape when she was a young girl (she is now 19/20) - the only thing my son witnessed is what his ex-girlfriend told him and obviously her mental/emotional state - she decided last year she would go to the police with the allegations and my son was with her when she was at the police station. About a month later my son and her split up.

Jo C. :

What was the content of his statement?

Jo C. :

He is just confirming that she made these claims to him?

Jo C. :

Just for clarity, he is absolutely right to have finished with her and should never again get involved with a person making allegations of this kind.

JACUSTOMER-43ot4g9r- :

To be honest I am not sure what the content was, I will ask my son, but believe it was confirming what his ex had told him.

Jo C. :

Thats a problem.

JACUSTOMER-43ot4g9r- :

She is and was a bit of a live wire! Drama Queen I would say! However, all allegations have to be looked into I know this much. It must be very difficult for her parents as the allegation is against her fathers brother.

Jo C. :

Yes, of course she was.

Jo C. :

Its always people like that who make allegations like this save for a few exceptions!

Jo C. :

Its just a shame that she has got him involved in this.

JACUSTOMER-43ot4g9r- :

Have just tried to get hold of my son - he is working at present so not picked up the call. Why is the contact confirming what she has alleged a problem - at this stage its her word against the alleged surely?

Jo C. :

The problem with this is that he has made a S9 statement

Jo C. :

For that reason they can summons him to court on that basis.

Jo C. :

Yes, it will be but its not that simple.

Jo C. :

Its never really one persons' word against another.

Jo C. :

There is always more support for one account than the other.

JACUSTOMER-43ot4g9r- :

Oh ok . My son said he doesn't know what he can give them as a witness

Jo C. :

Unfortunately your son has become involved in this nonsense

Jo C. :

If you give me 10 mins then I will type out an answer for you.

JACUSTOMER-43ot4g9r- :

oh dear.

Jo C. :

The plain fact is that many of these allegations are without merit but they are receiving disproportionate attention at the moment. She is claiming rape and his account unfortunately wil lbe used to support that. For that reason he is at risk of being summonsed and could actually be prosecuted for contempt if he doesn't go.

Jo C. :

They wouldn't normally do that but he doesn't have the protection of being able to pretend to be a victim of abuse when it suits him.

Jo C. :

It is rather disappointing that they didn't taken into account his dates to avoid. One wonders whats the point of asking for them if they are not going to fix around them.

Jo C. :

however, nevertheless a summons exists and failing to answer is a contempt.

Jo C. :

it is fair to say that they don't prosecute much for contempt but this is an allegation of rape.

Jo C. :

The annoying thing is that if he didn't believe her claims and goes along and says then the prosecution will just not call him although the defence will probably want him then so it doesn't change much.

Jo C. :

Recent complaint witnesses do quite often fail to attend. I think often its because they know the allegation is false and they don't want to support it.

Jo C. :

However, those are the risks.

Jo C. :

I would still try to negotiate with the OIC though as this is just unfair.

Jo C. :

The OIC is quite unlikely to tell him its fine to ignore a summons though. What he might do is apply to vary the trial dates.

Jo C. :

For the future, he needs to find himself a girlfriend with no history or inclination of making allegations of abuse against anyone. Bearing in mind that most women get through their whole lives without doing so even once.

JACUSTOMER-43ot4g9r- :

Ok thanks. Just for the record my son doesn't believe her - he was supporting her at the time I think. Again he is only in his 20's and inexperienced at these sort of things.

Jo C. :

Then he needs to make a statement to that effect. The crown will drop him like a hot potato. The defence might want him though.

Jo C. :

There's no point in a recent complaint witness who comes along and says it was all like jackanory

JACUSTOMER-43ot4g9r- :

His current girlfriend is very nice girl and is also living with us so things have drastically changed for him. Thanks but you can't live their lives for them unfortunately, only point them in the right direction.

Jo C. :

No, and the problem is that there really isn't much media emphasis upon how dangerous these people are.

Jo C. :

Young men are generally socialised to protect women which is fine but they are not socialised to recognise when a woman just quite likes being a victim.

JACUSTOMER-43ot4g9r- :

Very true!

Jo C. :

Tell him to make a further statement explaining that he didn't believe her.

Jo C. :

and offering his view upon why. You will soon see the Crown move then.

JACUSTOMER-43ot4g9r- :

Sorry OIC? - is this the courts we need to try and talk to again?

Jo C. :

officer in the case.

Jo C. :

just the officer who is unfortunate enough to have conduct of this expensive twaddle.

Jo C. :

Whoever took his statement originally.

Jo C. :

He will be liasing with somebody at the police station.

JACUSTOMER-43ot4g9r- :

ok thanks, we'll try but it seems he is stuck and will have to incur charges to change his flights! All for something he wants nothing to do with!

JACUSTOMER-43ot4g9r- :

Thanks for your help, much appreciated.

Jo C. :

For future reference, if you don't want to get involved in a criminal case then just refuse to make a statement.

Jo C. :

You commit no offence in doing so.

Jo C. :

There is no offence in the UK of refusing to assist the police with their enquiries - which, of course, they wouldn't have to make in many instances if families didn't use them as a mediation service.

JACUSTOMER-43ot4g9r- :

Thanks, I will drill that into him!

Jo C. :

As long as he finds sensible girlfriends though its quite unlikely that he will need to worry about that.

Jo C. :

I've never yet called the police to a family dispute and I suspect there are many women like me.

JACUSTOMER-43ot4g9r- :

Same here - I believe it is those who probably haven't got anything better to do with their time except waste others time and love the drama of it

Jo C. :

Yes, I quite agree. I have been in criminal law a long time and there are victims of crime and victims of crime.

Jo C. :

However, my very firmly held view is that the ones who are repeated victims of crime would never make reports to the police if they had to pay even a nominal sum for the investigation.

Jo C. :

They just use the 999 service because its free to sort out their childish relationships issues.

Jo C. :

And it is generally the unemployed. If they had jobs and hobbies they would be too exhausted to make allegations of abuse.

JACUSTOMER-43ot4g9r- :

Absolutely!

Jo C. :

And, also, of course, they all grow up in houses where involving the state in their disputes is normalised.

Jo C. :

None of them have ever heard of having a row and just not talking to each other for a week like normal people.

JACUSTOMER-43ot4g9r- :

Or even trying to sort it themselves, always ends up involving other people and becoming so blown out of proportion. Very sad!

Jo C. :

Well, and racking up the statistics.

Jo C. :

The number of domestic reports may well be on the increase but if the public had any idea of the quality of the majority of them the whole issue would be shelved.

Jo C. :

My husband is a police officer and he always says that 9 out of 10 of the domestics he goes to are just verbal arguments.

Jo C. :

And I well remember my early years in practice. The quality of most common assaults are not ones that should be before the court.

Jo C. :

There may well be some domestic abuse in the UK but it is a hugely overstated issue.

JACUSTOMER-43ot4g9r- :

can he withdraw his statement?

Jo C. :

Not that would be effective.

Jo C. :

He can make a statement saying he doesn't want to support the prosecution but that isn't evidence.

Jo C. :

They will probably still summons him.

Jo C. :

His problem being that he cannot gain sympathy by claiming to be the victim of the piece.

Jo C. :

People don't answer summonses all the time and there are very few contempt prosecutions but generally that is because they are young ladies alleging domestic violence so they have the upper hand by being 'the victim'.

Jo C. :

Those of us who don't like being victims really just have to face the consequences of our actions like everybody else.

JACUSTOMER-43ot4g9r- :

ok thanks, I will try and get to talk to the OIC - its causing problems at work now as he can't change his dates because he is travelling long distance he is taking 3 wks off so difficult to put in for that sort of holiday around other members of staff

Jo C. :

he can amend his statement to make clear he didn't believe her if, in fact, he did not.

Jo C. :

I do think the OIC would be sympathetic because he did give them dates to avoid and they have just ignored it.

Jo C. :

I have to say that I don't see why the crown can't just apply to vary it or carry on without him.

JACUSTOMER-43ot4g9r- :

Well that is my view it all seems a little unfair to be honest

Jo C. :

Except I suppose that when the accused gets off because its a weak case, they don't want the accuser making allegations against them that its all their fault because they didn't call a random stranger to say that she mentioned it to him as well!

Jo C. :

I can understand their concern.

JACUSTOMER-43ot4g9r- :

yes fair comment

Jo C. :

Whether they would prosecute him though is difficult to say.

Jo C. :

There are really very few prosecutions and people fail to answer summonses all the time.

JACUSTOMER-43ot4g9r- :

ok well at least I know where we stand and we'll try our best to contact the OIC. otherwise its up to us to change things and bear the costs!

Jo C. :

That is the legal position certainly but I'm sure something could be done.

JACUSTOMER-43ot4g9r- :

one doesn't know if he will be called several times though, they are asking to attend on one day but could be several days he is called?

Jo C. :

No, not at all.

Jo C. :

This trial will be in the warned list.

Jo C. :

He will probably be called straight after her evidence.

Jo C. :

So the Crown opens the case to the jury, she will give evidence then he will give evidence and be crossed examined.

Jo C. :

His actual evidence will not take more than about 20 mins.

Jo C. :

Recent complaint witnesses don't really take either side much further forward. In my opinion, the only time they are useful is when the defence is recent fabrication.

Jo C. :

My experience has been that they are damaging usually. Either the witness says that the complaint wasn't believed or if it was believed it just suggests that she is bonkers!

Jo C. :

He might have to attend for a few days while they find a court but rapes will get priority even though many of them are extremely weak in terms of evidence and should not be wasting the resources of the criminal courts.

JACUSTOMER-43ot4g9r- :

Sorry, so he will only attend once? or could be called again? if he has nothing to give or witness

JACUSTOMER-43ot4g9r- :

She was bonkers believe me! I kicked her out of my house once, absolute nutcase!

JACUSTOMER-43ot4g9r- :

Sorry re-read your comments - this leaves us with a dilemma as to when to change the flight dates as we won't know how long the case could go on for!

Jo C. :

It will be warned for two weeks probably.

JACUSTOMER-43ot4g9r- :

oh goodness that's not good news

Jo C. :

No, it won't take two weeks.

Jo C. :

Its just in the warned list.

Jo C. :

So, it could be called on at any time during the two weeks period.

Jo C. :

Probably it will take 3-4 days for a rape and he will only have to be there on the 1st to 2nd day

JACUSTOMER-43ot4g9r- :

ok still a dilemma as flights are mostly booked now, one free seat on 15th but he goes to court on 14th April so its a risk to book it so close. Ok no worries, it's a problem we will have to sort ourselves, what a shame and such a waste of time. Do appreciate your help. Many thanks.

Jo C. :

No problem and all the best.

Remember that I am always available to help with your questions. Even if I am in Court I will usually pick up a question within 12 hours. For future information, please start your question with ‘For Jo C’. You can also bookmark my profile http://www.justanswer.co.uk/law/expert-remus2004/

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