So the moment had arrived, I had been led into the courtroom, it had been cleared of everyone except the judge, prossecution and defence barristers and DC John. I came in via a conveluted way and a side door. This is done to keep vulnerable witnesses from coming into direct contact of the defendant. As I walked through the corridors upto the point I sat down behind a curtain in the witness box I had the Sheryl Crow song, no one said it would be easy running through my head. Over and over the chorus rang through my ears and mind. In retrospect it was an apt thing to be hearing.
No one said it would be easy
But no one said it’d be this hard
No one said it would be easy
No one thought we’d come this far
I sat down in my seat, had a sip of water as the jury entered the court room, took their seats. eventually Baulch was called in, I couldnt see because the cutain screen made sure only the judge, jury and barristers could see me and vice a versa. I have no idea who else other than the afforementioned and Baulch himself was in the room, as I couldn’t see and they couldn’t see me. I’d been asked previously if I wished to take the regular oath or civil oath. Although longer I opted for the civil oath, in good concscience I could not swear upon a bible to a God I didn’t necessarilly believe in. In my mind swearing to to tell the truth to God would have been a lie and open to discrediting me and my evidence. At this point I was passed the point of no return and had to do all I could to have my story heard and the truth believed.
As witness for the prossecution Toby the prossecution barrister opened up, the first couple of questions seemed far to easy, was I Mr Blah Bah Blah, born the X of X 1976? Yes was the only answer I could give. Next he asked whether Mr & Mrs Blah were my parents and whether they adopted me? I stumbled over my reply, not because it was difficult but I was completely disorientated. This wasn’t what I’d expected at all of examination. Simple questions of fact that was yes/no answers. I honestly don’t remember a question that wasn’t anything more than a walkthrough of my statement. We got to a point where I was questioned about the layout of Baulch’s bedroom, the colour of the walls, the situation of my mum and his being friends and regularly having tea. I was asked about what led to him penetrating my mouth, I believe I said I wasn’t entirely sure, his trousers may have been around his ankles, but I remember a mass of pubic hair and an erect penis in my face. For sake of sparing you the details I will leave that there. An hour had passed and we were at the end of my statement and prossecution evidence. I had tried desperately to bring in the point in my statement that said why I had been to the police but Toby refused t let me go there. I was angry, I wanted the jury to know that my only motivation was Baulch abused me and still had access to children, one I saw him with 9 years earlier who looked at best uncomfortable. That was and still is my only motivation for going to the police.
Toby had drawn his examination to a close, the judge decided it was time for lunch so adjourned the case for an hour and a half. I felt incredibly embldened by the process if ever so sweaty. After the jury and Baulch were let go I was escorted back to the witness room. With an hour before I was due back I ws desperate to get out of the court for a smoke, some fresh air and a coffee, we found a little cafe just round the corner so we grabbed a quick coffee and sandwich before heading back to the court.
having waited for what seemed an eternity for security to return to the witness entrance to do the umpteenth search we were back in the witness room. Not long after the usher was at the door to pick collect me and escort me through the labarynth of the court. At that moment I decided that I didn’t want my girlfriend to sit in the public gallery, something in my gut knew this was going to be brutal and I didn’t want her to see that… well because of the screen, hear it. Just like the morning the judge, barristers, DC John were in the courtroom, I entered, took my seat behind the screen in the witness box, the jury then came in, then Baulch and the public gallery. That point was it, game one, let the battle begin. I didn’t know though what a battle it was going to be.
Larry, the defence barrister stood up and opened with his opening salvo.
“Mr Blah, is it not true to say these allegations are nothing more than fantasies of your mental health”
Now I can’t say, even now, I was surprised hit threw that at me. I knew from the moment I made my statement that the defence would use my mental health against me to discredit me. Almost everyone had previously tried to assure me it would be unlikely that such a hostile approach would be employed, however I was never convinced. Fortunately I had had the words of Ron Coleman ringing in my head and my reply was primed and ready to launch back at him like an exocet to blow him out of the sky.
“Well considering 80% of people with my diagnosis have suffered a childhood trauma. That means the mental health problems are because of the trauma, not the allegations because of the mental health problems. I am not a liar, the only liar in this courtroom is your client sat in the dock”
I was firm in my response, not overly aggressive, but I wasn’t going to be pushed over by such ignorant assertions. The judge interjected:
“Mr Blah, you must understand that Larry is testing the evidence”
so I respectfully made sure that the judge and jury were under no illusion of my position:
“I understand that the defence is here to test the evicence, but that was not testing the evidence, that was stigma based assertion with not an ounce of fact behind it. Therefore that can not be testing the evidence and I’m not having that!”
The judge looked at me shrugged his shoulders and had a look that said, fair enough, good point well made. I’d truly asserted myself without losing my cool or looking like a bad witness. Amazing really considering I don’t seem to do the same with mental health services.
The next battle ensued, and this time was based on his age at the time. And whether biologically he would have been able to do what he did. Now I’m no expert but I remember from school there’s an age when puberty occurs, which is not set in stone and can occur ealier or later, but Larry didn’t want to explore that posibility. I assume it was because it didn’t fit with his binary constructs of argument. The main argument was that it was impossible at his age he could have ejaculated. Ironically several months after the trial,an 11 year old youth was jailed for rape, the fact he ejaculated was an agrivating factor. If that had happened before my trial that would have blown Larry’s argument right out of the water.
The next battle, and this is the one that still bothers me. I can’t remember exactly what the argument was but the fact he called me “Mr Baulch“. I answered the question and thought “did he just call me Baulch?” then Larry repeated the question, again he called me Baulch, again I replied the same as I had previously. After that I thought “I’m not having him call me Baulch again”. Before I had a chance to challenge him, he asked the same question twice more, both times calling me Mr Baulch. At the fourth time of asking and calling me Baulch, Toby interjected pointing out the question had been asked four times and the same answer given. The judge agreed and directed the court to the answer that had clearly been given, if not understood by the defence. At no point did anyone notice his use of name, so I spoke up:
“Excuse me your Honour, but I must object to the defence calling me Mr Baulch four times, they must understand how visceral that name is to me and at the very least is disrepectful, at worst an attempt to provoke me to a reaction to discredit me”
I looked around the courtroom, or what i could see. There was a distinct sense of awkwardness that I’d once again shown the defence for what they were. Although even now I can’t decide whether that was provocative or incompetent. Whatever Larry was, he was certainly aggressive.
The other issue I had was the level of responsibility for my ‘situation’ he was piling on me. He questioned intensely why I wasn’t doing more to stop what was ‘happening’ to me. There are several reasons he didnt want to hear:
- I was three or four years old
- I didn’t know what was happening to me was wrong, he told me it was what big boys did. I wanted to be a big boy.
- My vocabulary wasn’t developed enough to explain to my parents.
- Society’s understanding of child sex abuse was extremely limited in the late 70’s / early 80’s.
- Simply it shouldn’t have been my responsibilty to stop the abuse, but his client’s responsibility not to be abusing me.
I’m not sure how long the cross examination but it was brutal and antagonistic. I was feeling very bruised, but slightly vindicated. When Larry rested his case Toby asked the judge to bring something back in. That required legal arguments so the jury was sent back to the jury room, Baulch sent out. The judge pondered what to do with me, the arguments would have been brief and by the time I had made it back to the witness room I’d probably need to come back to the courtroom. The judge asked if I would mind sitting in his chambers for the duration of the arguments, to which I agreed. The chambers were just off the courtroom and although they sound grand, in reality they were just a plain office.
After 5 maybe 10 minutes everyone had been called back to the courtroom and Toby went back to my statement to ask why I had reported my abuse to the police, bringing in the part of my statement that I’d seen Baulch in the pub with a young boy who looked very awkward being sat next to him. As I said in my statement at the time, I may have misread the situation, but it was enough to raise concern for me.
I was dismissed from the witness box, with appologies from the judge for Larry calling me Baulch. Whereas the acknowledgement was appreciated, the lack of an appology from Larry still irks me. I can’t help but wonder that it was a tactic to provoke a response from me to lose it and prove I was just a nutcase, even if the judge believed it to be a case of hightened emotion and a genuine accident.
In next to no time I was back in the witness room and I just had to get out of the court and a stiff drink or two at the hotel bar and start to destress. Whilst I was leaving the court was watching my sister’s video statement setting up her up to give evidence.
It was a bruising experience, although on reflection I got the better of the defence and didn’t fall for their traps, the rest of the afternoon (until I collapsed on the bed for a few hours with the help of a few drinks and a lorazepam) was full of doubt whether I did something wrong in my evidence. It isn’t an experience I’d be keen to repeat in a hurry, or ever.