Man acquitted of threatening to kill his mother

Protection order made

Shane Edward Connor, 37, was discharged last week after a Grand Court judge entered a not guilty verdict on a charge of threatening to kill his mother in September 2014.

After Connor’s mother agreed that a protection order would be preferable so that she could avoid a trial, Justice Michael Mettyear made the order according to provisions of The Protection from Domestic Violence Law, 2010.

Connor is not to directly or indirectly contact his mother or his brother and is not to go to a specified address, the judge’s order stipulates. The order is for three years – the maximum allowed in the law.

Trial was to have started on May 4 but did not go ahead. On May 5, Crown counsel Scott Wainwright advised Justice Mettyear that the required medical certificate had been received from the complainant, Connor’s mother, to excuse her absence. Mr. Wainwright said the Crown would not seek further time for a trial.

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After Justice Mettyear noted Ms. Connor’s preference for a protection order, attorney Lee Halliday-Davis advised that the defense did not oppose it.

The Crown offered no evidence against Connor, and a verdict of not guilty was entered.

On May 8, the matter returned to court because of questions about potential publication of the case.

Mr. Wainwright said he and Ms. Halliday-Davis agreed that there could be no preventing of publishing proceedings as they pertained to the indictment. However, he continued, the protection order was protected from publication. A restriction is contained in the law itself: “No person shall publish a report of any proceedings under this Law unless he is first granted leave of the court which heard the proceedings.”

If the court allowed publication of the order against Connor, further victims would be dissuaded because if they did, their names would be published in the press, he argued. Publishing an order in its entirety would have a chilling effect, he predicted.

The public interest in having an effective way of dealing with domestic violence cases outweighed any interest the press might have in publishing a story, he indicated.

In his ruling, Justice Mettyear summarized the situation that led to his making of the protection order. He said Connor was due to stand trial on May 5 for an indictment alleging common assault on his mother and threats to kill her. On that date, the mother did not come to court due to her poor health. She had said she was prepared to give evidence if she were well enough.

“Because the case had been adjourned on earlier occasions and it was not known when she would be fit, and because the defendant had been in custody many months, the Crown quite rightly decided to offer no evidence but sought a protection order,” the judge explained.

As a result of what he had been told, Justice Mettyear said, he entered a not guilty verdict and made the protection order.

The press sought a clarification as to what could be published. That query was passed on to the Crown and defense attorney for their consideration.

Justice Mettyear said the defense had made a good point – that the defendant was entitled to have his acquittal published. He also noted Mr. Wainwright’s concerns – that the complainant was not keen to have her details published and that future complainants would be reluctant to come forward.

The judge said it seemed to him that he had to have in mind the complainant’s view, but that was not the overriding factor. He pointed out that if the trial had gone ahead, all the details would have become public.

But the reality was that the man had been acquitted: if only the matter of the indictment were reported, that would not give a fair and true picture of what had happened.

Justice Mettyear said it was better in his view that the public know the court has the power to give protection to a vulnerable woman. “It seems to me that future complainants would be comforted,” he said. On that basis, what happened could be published, but without specific detail.

Connor previously stood trial in April on another charge of threats to kill. In that indictment, the complainant was a prison officer and the offense allegedly took place at Northward Prison in October 2013. Justice Mettyear directed that there be no reporting of the matter because the trial involving Connor’s mother was scheduled to follow so soon after and he did not want anything to influence potential jurors. On April 21, a jury found Connor not guilty.

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