Defendant claimed he mistakenly thought he’d gotten into bed with wife
A Grand Court jury returned a unanimous verdict of guilty after hearing evidence of an indecent assault by a man against his niece. He was 52; she was 15.
The man claimed in his police statement that he had gotten into bed with the girl because he mistook her for his wife.
Defense attorney Lucy Organ requested a social inquiry report and Justice Charles Quin agreed, postponing sentence until Wednesday, Sept. 18. Crown counsel Toyin Salako asked that the defendant be remanded in custody and the judge agreed.
The incident occurred at night, while the girl was staying over at the man’s house because she was friends with her cousin, the man’s daughter. There was evidence that he had encouraged her to stay over.
The assault took place in his daughter’s bedroom and began with indecent touching and/or rubbing of the girl’s thigh and breasts. He then undid the buttons and zipper of the shorts she was wearing, put his hand inside her underwear and touched her intimately.
When the girl realized what was happening, she was at first terrified and froze, but then told him to stop. He did, and left the room.
The girl told her cousin what had happened and when she got to school she also told a teacher, who in turn phoned the girl’s mother, who informed police.
The man admitted the incident had occurred, but said he thought it was his wife in the bedroom on the night in question and he had made a terrible mistake. He also said he had consumed quite a few beers that night.
He did not give evidence in his trial, but relied on his interview with police, which was shared in court.
Ms Organ pointed to evidence of a mistake: the man had checked his wife’s bedroom and didn’t see her, so he thought she was sleeping with the daughter; the room was dark; at first the girl said nothing, but when she did, he immediately stopped.
Ms Salako asked the jurors to bring their collective common sense and life experience in deciding what they accepted. They had seen the girl when she gave evidence. They could decide if there was a difference in the body of a 15-year-old and that of a woman in her 40s, who has borne children. She also queried whether the man’s wife normally wore shorts to bed.
Both counsel agreed that self-induced intoxication is not a defense.
Justice Quin instructed the jury, “If you find that the defendant in fact thought that [the girl] was his wife or may have thought it was his wife, that would be a defense and he would be entitled to an acquittal.”
The touching was admitted and it was indecent under the circumstances, he indicated. In order to return a guilty verdict, jurors had to be sure he did not believe the person he was touching was his wife.
If they thought he believed or may have believed the person was his wife, they would then go on to consider whether the mistake was caused by the effects of alcohol. If not, the verdict would be not guilty. If the mistake was caused by alcohol consumption, then the verdict would be guilty.
This report does not include names in order to protect the identity of the victim.