Errington Webster’s defense attorney, Steve McField, on Friday questioned in court whether the alleged assaults on a 13-year-old girl ever took place, and he explained the defense of automatism in regard to the charge of gross indecency.
Mr. McField addressed the jury in the trial of Webster, 55, who has pleaded not guilty to three counts of indecent assault and one count of gross indecency.
Mr. McField described the complainant – a girl who was 13 at the time – as “not a truthful person. She concocted this whole story.”
He pointed to the Crown’s exhibit of 1,149 text messages between Webster and the girl: 877 were from the girl to Webster, and 272 were from Webster to the girl.
Going through the first 22 pages of printed messages, he counted 42 times that the girl had asked Webster for money.
“A man has violated you – taken your privacy from you and you are still contacting him? Taking money?” Mr. McField asked.
He agreed that Webster’s family was better off than the girl’s family. Webster, in his own evidence, agreed that he had given the girl money. He said it was part of his counseling strategy, to build the girl’s self-esteem and to motivate her.
The Crown’s case was that Webster was “grooming” the girl, but Mr. McField pointed out that the girl herself had said Webster was counseling her, and so had two other Crown witnesses.
He noted that the girl’s mother told the court that she had asked the girl if there was anything sexual in the relationship with Webster and the girl had said no. “If the girl would lie to her own mother, I’m asking you to infer that she was dishonest also in these allegations,” Mr. McField urged.
He reminded jurors that Crown counsel Darlene Oko had received permission from Justice Charles Quin to amend the indictment by broadening the time period in which the alleged indecent assaults took place. The girl did not remember when those things happened, Mr. McField pointed out. “You can’t be sure when they happened or if they happened at all,” he said.
The attorney referred to CCTV evidence from the bank at which Webster withdrew $300 from an ATM. The time shown on that video was inconsistent with the times of text messages exchanged before the girl said she had gone with Webster to the ATM. What she told police was “a complete lie and fabrication,” Mr. McField charged.
Justice Quin interrupted briefly to point out that the bank employee who brought the CCTV evidence had been unable to vouch for the accuracy of the time shown on that tape. She did vouch for the sum of $300 being withdrawn that day.
The charge of gross indecency is based on a video the girl took when she was with Webster in a vehicle and he was touching himself vigorously. “We say he has a defense of automatism. That means he doesn’t remember what he did and was not conscious of what he was doing,” Mr. McField said.
The attorney asked jurors to accept the evidence of Dr. Marc Lockhart, who spoke with Webster multiple times, spoke with Mrs. Webster, and researched possible interaction between Webster’s prescription medications and grapefruit juice along with other ingredients of a “belly fat flush” Webster said he had been drinking the day the video was taken. Dr. Lockhart had concluded that Webster was in a state of delirium at the time the video was taken.
Ms. Oko, who addressed jurors before Mr. McField, asked them not to forget that the complainant was a child who had neither the life experience nor the maturity to see through the manipulativeness of Webster, who knew she was particularly vulnerable. She said the girl had been honest in admitting that she wanted the money, clothes and food that Webster promised her and she could not resist their allure.
That is why the law protects children from being used and abused, Ms. Oko said, because children are particularly susceptible to this kind of manipulation.
She agreed that Dr. Lockhart had said he believed Webster was suffering from a substance-induced state of delirium at the time the girl took a video of him. But he had based his opinion partially on what Webster told him. If Webster did not tell him the truth, that was not Dr. Lockhart’s fault, she said.
Ms. Oko reminded jurors that Dr. Lockhart had said, based on tests he had performed, that Webster had features of psychopathology, including dishonesty, egocentricity, manipulation, defiance, poor impulse control, a positive attitude toward criminal behavior and an unwillingness to accept responsibility.
In his address later, Mr. McField pointed out that these traits were not part of Dr. Lockhart’s report. They had been mentioned after Ms. Oko asked the psychiatrist about his notes, but Dr. Lockhart himself had referred to the testing as just one factor – that a diagnosis could not be made on the basis of one criteria; that all the information had to be taken together.
Justice Quin is scheduled to sum up the evidence for jurors on Tuesday and instruct them in the law as it pertains to this case.