Sex offender, 47, loses appeal
A man jailed for a string of sexual offences against a schoolgirl has lost his appeal against his conviction.
Kenneth Hurff Williams, 47, from Pembroke, was sentenced to three years in prison last year after he was convicted in Magistrates' Court of six counts of sexually touching a child under the age of 14 while in a position of trust.
He was also convicted of performing an indecent act in front of the child, intrusion on her privacy and showing her pornography
All of the incidents took place between June 2014 and January 2016.
Williams argued that his right to a fair trial within a reasonable time had been breached by repeated delays in his trial process at a Supreme Court hearing in July.
The court heard the trial, which began on August 22, 2017, lasted a total of 21 months, and the case was called in the courts 50 times.
Puisne Judge Shade Subair Williams rejected the appeal after she found that the defence was responsible for many of the delays.
Mrs Justice Subair Williams said in a written judgment last month: “Effectively, the defence must shoulder the burden of at least eight months of trial prolongation out of the 19 months spent by the court on receiving the evidence for the Crown's case and the defence case.
“This is in addition to the trial adjournments for which the defence was responsible and the dates of court availability of which the defence did not avail itself.”
She added that magistrate Tyrone Chin, who presided over the case, had tried to keep the court appearances on track, but that became more difficult over time, which contributed to the delays.
Mrs Justice Subair Williams said: “In my view, had the defence adopted a more practical and reasonable approach to the evidence, the Crown's case and the defence case could have fully presented within the initial two-month period spent by the defence on cross-examining the complainant.”
The victim, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, said Williams had sexually touched her multiple times over a period of years.
But Williams denied all of the offences.
He claimed he was busy looking for employment in 2014, when the earliest offences happened, and was busy at work when further offences occurred in 2015.
Williams said he had gone to the victim's home in January 2016 to take her out for lunch to reward her for good grades, but he claimed the girl said she was unwell and so he talked to her for a while and left.
The defendant, through defence lawyer Sara Tucker, suggested at the trial that the victim was motivated to make the allegations after he broke a promise to hold a birthday party for her and alleged she had stolen money from her mother.
The court heard the cross- examination of the victim by Ms Tucker during the trial stretched over 2½ months between August 24, 2017 and October 30, 2017.
Mrs Justice Subair Williams said: “Seemingly, minimal efforts were made by the defence to truncate the questioning or to spare the complainant from prolonged questioning on less significant details, which one might otherwise reasonably expect to see, with the cross-examination of a vulnerable witness.
“More so, the boundaries set by the rules of evidence on cross-examination were often and astonishingly ignored.
“At one point, Ms Tucker even questioned the complainant on her own previous sexual history suggesting that she had a previously been caught engaging in ‘inappropriate' activity with a boy.”
The trial also suffered repeated delays because of scheduling problems, two unsuccessful applications for a mistrial by the defence and one unsuccessful application by the defence for the magistrate to recuse himself.
Mrs Justice Subair Williams said: “On my assessment of the charges and the relevant evidence, the trial ought not to have been so extensively delayed.
“Unavoidably, it must be said that it was the duty of the magistrate to manage the trial and in this case he failed to keep sufficient command over the defence's conduct at trial.
“That being said, the defence must not be permitted to benefit from its own folly.”
Mrs Justice Subair Williams also rejected other grounds of appeal, including that Mr Chin should have recused himself because he had presided over a Family Court hearing involving the victim's mother, who was a witness in the trial.
She said the Family Court matter was “wholly irrelevant” to the criminal trial and had happened before the victim was born.
Mrs Justice Subair Williams said: “Under these circumstances, it could not be seriously argued by a fair-minded and informed observer that there is a real danger that the magistrate's mind was in any way closed or incapable of an impartial assessment of the mother's credibility by reason of an unrelated Family Court case of 15 years prior.”
The judge also said there was no merit to an argument by Ms Tucker that Williams should have received the benefit of a good character direction.
Mrs Justice Subair Williams said: “The appellant, who had previous convictions for criminal offences — possession of cannabis and unlawful wounding — never made an application to the magistrate for a good character direction.
“It is beyond difficult to envisage how the magistrate could have properly allowed a good character direction, in respect of a defendant who not only had previous criminal convictions, but who also, during cross-examination, impugned the character of both the complainant and the mother.”
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