Good character a consideration
In Grand Court on Friday, Melissa
Jane Mattison won her appeal against an August 2009 conviction for assaulting
Justice Algernon Smith gave his
decision after hearing arguments on 8 October. After further submissions from
Defence Attorney Nicholas Dixey and Crown Counsel Candia James, he said he
would not order a retrial, nor would he award costs to Ms Mattison.
The judge acquitted Ms Mattison on
the basis that Magistrate Nova Hall, who presided at the Summary Court trial,
did not adequately show she had considered the question of good character.
Ms Mattison was a person of good
character, in her early 40s and with no previous convictions in July 2008 when
the incident occurred that led to the charge against her. She and her partner,
former police officer Paul Dewing, were in court watching the trial of the
person who was driving when Mr. Dewing was knocked down while walking his dogs
in March 2007. The dogs died. Mr. Dewing was airlifted to Miami and given a 30
per cent chance to live. Ms Mattison supported him throughout his recovery.
When the jury found the driver not
guilty of dangerous or careless driving, Mr. Dewing left the courtroom abruptly
and Ms Mattison ran after him calling his name. Auxiliary Constable Gerry
Campbell, serving as court security guard, told her “Miss, please be quiet” but
she continued to shout “Paul” and go towards the door. The magistrate found that
Ms Mattison glanced back at the officer and then pushed the door hard on him as
he was coming out the door. She found that the door slammed on the officer’s
left shoulder, causing him pain. The magistrate concluded that Ms Mattison was
deliberately ignoring the officer and her actions were deliberately done.
Justice Smith pointed out that good
character is relevant in two ways: credibility, that a person of good character
is more likely to be truthful in giving evidence than a person of bad
character; and propensity, that a person of good character is less likely to
commit a crime, “especially one of the nature with which she is charged.”
During her trial, Ms Mattison said
under oath she might have slammed the door but her attention was on Paul and
she did not intend to hit the officer. Her defence was that it was an accident.
Justice Smith said the magistrate
did not demonstrate that she had the required direction in mind when she
concluded Ms Mattison was not credible. But even if she did have that in mind,
she had said nothing about the need to direct herself on propensity.
In deciding against a retrial, the
judge said the nature of the allegation was serious — assaulting an officer —
but one had to look at the circumstances. The fine of $250 imposed by the
magistrate indicated the charge was not serious.
Mr. Dixey had also noted the costs
incurred by Ms Mattison, the stress of the past three years and the fact that
her defence witness was no longer on-Island.