Man jailed for sex offences loses appeal
A man jailed for sexual offences against a ten-year-old schoolgirl has lost an appeal against his conviction.
William Franklyn Smith, 27, was sentenced to ten years in jail earlier this year after he was found guilty of unlawful carnal knowledge, attempted unlawful carnal knowledge and sexual exploitation of a young person.
But lawyers for Smith claimed in the Court of Appeal that his trial judge, Acting Puisne Judge Craig Attridge, should not have allowed the victim to take the stand.
Paul Wilson, who represented Smith, also argued the jury should not have been allowed to hear evidence that the victim had contracted a sexually transmitted infection.
Sir Maurice Kay, a Court of Appeal judge, said, in a written decision that he has not persuaded by any of the grounds for appeal.
He added: “This was a difficult trial which was conducted fairly and adroitly by the Acting Justice.
“The convictions were and are safe and accordingly I would dismiss the appeal.”
Smith was found guilty by a jury of a sexual assault on the child, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, on or about September 23, 2016.
He was also convicted of an attempt to have sex with the girl in the summer of 2017.
The offences were discovered after the defendant was found by the victim's family in the girl's bedroom wearing only his underpants.
Mr Wilson told the Court of Appeal that Mr Justice Attridge should not have allowed the victim — who was 12 years old at the time of the trial — to give evidence.
He claimed it was not clear the victim understood the gravity of her oath as a witness as she had been unable to answer some questions asked by the trial judge.
But the court found Mr Justice Attridge had enough evidence to exercise his discretion and allow her to give evidence.
Sir Maurice added: “Whilst the judge was having to assess the victim ahead of receiving her account of the allegations, we have the advantage of a complete transcript of the account which she proceeded to give.
“It convinces me beyond all doubt that the victim had more than sufficient intelligence to qualify her to give evidence and appropriate understanding of the duty of speaking the truth.”
Mr Wilson also challenged Mr Justice Attridge's direction to the jurors about how to treat the victim's evidence, but the appeal court ruled that the trial judge had provided a “lengthy exposition tailored to the evidence and issues in this case”.
The court also dismissed a complaint that the jury should not have heard evidence the victim had contracted trichomonas — a parasite usually spread by sexual activity.
Mr Wilson argued the evidence was more prejudicial than proof of evidence, particularly because there was no evidence Smith or any adult partner of his had contracted the parasitical infection.
But the appeal court said the evidence was relevant.
Sir Maurice wrote in the March 20 judgment: “It tended to show — although not as a matter of certainty, as the judge observed — that the victim had experienced vaginal penetration.
“Of itself, that did not inculpate the appellant but, if the jury accepted the victim's evidence that she had not been penetrated by anyone else, it had considerable probative potential.
“The judge's ruling, at the time it was made, seems to me to have been unimpeachable.”
Sir Maurice added that the doctor who provided the evidence was cross-examined by Elizabeth Christopher, who represented Smith at the trial, which would have reduced any prejudicial effect the evidence might have had.
Sir Maurice added: “I have no doubt that Ms Christopher did not undersell whatever product she had gleaned.”
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