Stephen Gary Benson 1 May 2014 Court of Appeal (Sport)

Stephen Gary Benson carried out the offences on girls between 14 – 18 whilst the coach at Ipswich Harriers Athletics Club. He was also PE teacher at Copleston High in Ipswich, Suffolk but none of these offences were carried out there.

2013 Mar 29  Mail Games teacher raped three teenage girls after befriending their parents and going on holiday with their families [3]

Redaction

Some court reports have had victims names redacted and some assault details redacted.

This is a difficult balance –  normally I would think that  I should not “censor” details but on consultation with various people I have taken the decision to redact. This is mainly to protect victims, their friends and relatives from unnecessary detail and to stop the gratification of those who seek salacious details.

In addition to the obvious “victims redaction” to protect victims details, there may also be “assault redaction” across most of the spectrum of abuse. The assaults are left in the charges, but mainly redacted when repeated with reference to the individual. I have also redacted unnecessary detail of assaults.

Redaction may obscure sometimes the legal reason for the appeal, but should make no large difference to the vital information for researchers that these documents contain. That vital information is mainly names of the perpetrators, past addresses, institutions where assaults occurred, the actual charges the perpetrators faced, and dates – on which newspapers are pathetically inaccurate and this information enables the links between people and places and abuse at various times to be ascertained.

Some transcripts may have been subject to automatic reading software and whilst effort has been made to correct these, the text should not be regarded as definitive.  Common mistakes in reprinting here are that quotation marks are sometimes not correct, replaced by odd symbols.

If you think that the balance is not correct or that a particular redaction needs reconsideration, please say.

This appeal is redacted for personal detail and assaults by cathy fox blog

Index of Newspaper and Journal articles on this blog [1]

[2014] EWCA Crim 1466

No. 2013/02113/B3

IN THE COURT OF APPEAL

Thursday1 May 2014

Lady Justice Sharp

Regina

v.

Stephen Gary Benson


Computer Aided Transcription by Wordwave International Ltd (a Merrill Communications Company) 165 Fleet Street, London EC4 Telephone No: 020 7404 1400; Fax No 020 7404 1424 (Official Shorthand Writers to the Court)

Miss N Perry appeared on behalf of the Appellant

Miss R Karmy-Jones appeared on behalf of the Crown

JUDGMENT

(Approved)

Thursday 1 May 2014

Lady Justice Sharp:

1. This is a case to which the provisions of the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1992 apply. No matter relating to the persons against whom the sexual offences in this case have been committed shall during that person’s lifetime be included in any publication if it is likely to lead members of the public to identify that person as the victim of the offence. This judgment should be anonymised accordingly.

2. This is an appeal against conviction brought with the leave of the single judge.

3. On 28 March 2013, following a five week trial in the Crown Court at Ipswich before His Honour Judge Goodin and a jury, the appellant, who is now 51 years old, was convicted of nine counts of rape, six counts of indecent assault, two counts of sexual activity with a child and two counts of sexual assault. He was acquitted of two further counts of rape. On 2 May 2013 he was sentenced to 16 years’ imprisonment comprising 16 years on each count of rape, five years’ imprisonment on each of three counts of indecent assault, eight years’ imprisonment for one count of indecent assault, four years’ imprisonment for two counts of indecent assault, and two years’ imprisonment on each count of sexual activity with a child and sexual assault. All of the sentences were ordered to run concurrently with each other.

4. The case arose out of allegations by three female complainants, “A”, “B” and “C”, who had been trained by the appellant in his capacity as a high-ranking athletics coach at a local club in Ipswich at different times between 1989 and 2010. The complainants were from three different generations. At the time of the offending, which spanned 23 years, the complainants were between the ages of 14 and 18. The complainants did not know each other and had never met, but there were similarities in their accounts.

5. In summary, the case against the appellant was that he took advantage of what had begun as a legitimate relationship with the complainants and their parents to groom the girls for sexual activity, abusing his power as an older man and mentor to do so. None of the sexual acts was consensual.

6. A was born in 1974. The allegations made by her formed the basis of counts 1 to 11, which were specimen counts relating to the period between 1989 and 1993. It was alleged that the appellant [assault redacted] in the course of a sports massage, and forced her [assault redacted]

7. B was born in 1982. The allegations made by her formed the basis of counts 12 and 15 to 17, which were specific counts of [assault redacted] committed during December 1997 to March 2000, and of counts 13 and 14, which were specimen counts of [assault redacted]committed during the same period.

8. C was born in 1994. The allegations made by her formed the basis of counts 18 and 19, which were specimen counts of [assault redacted] between January 2008 and March 2009, and of counts 20 and 21 (of which the appellant was acquitted), which were two specific allegations of [assault redacted] during the same period. Through his coaching of C, the appellant had met and begun a relationship with C’s mother “G”. It was alleged that he would sexually abuse C while visiting her family home.

9. The appellant’s case at trial was one of denial of any form of sexual impropriety. It was alleged that all of the material witnesses, including the three complainants, were lying. In relation to A, it was said that the appellant had coached her and become friendly with her family, but that he did not rape her or have any form of sexual contact with her before she was 16 or against her will. From the age of 16, his friendship with her had developed into a relationship. They went to the cinema and to restaurants occasionally. They had consensual sexual intercourse on about four occasions within the context of that relationship.

10. This was a different case to that advanced in the appellant’s prepared statement put forward in interview after his arrest, in which he said he had “never had sex with [A] or any form of sexual contact with her”, that he was “completely shocked” by the allegation, “at a loss to explain why they should have been made”, that the allegations were “completely untrue”, and that he “categorically denied them”.

11. The appellant said that he coached B and became friendly with her family. When she was older, he and K had a brief relationship. On perhaps two occasions this involved sexual relations, but he did not engage in sexual relations with her when she was underage or against her will.

12. In relation to C, it was said that he had coached her. It was accepted that the appellant had had a relationship with G, but he had not engaged in any sexual activity or had any sexual contact with C.

13. Five grounds of appeal are advanced. Two relate to the summing-up and three to evidential rulings made during the course of the trial.

14. Before us today Miss Perry, who appears on the appellant’s behalf, says frankly that the appeal stands or falls on the first and principal ground of appeal. Although she does not abandon the other grounds, she was content for us to consider them on the basis of her written submissions.

15. The first ground of appeal is that the judge failed to sum up the defence case adequately. The criticism focuses in particular on the fact that the judge did not give the jury a single narrative account of the appellant’s evidence. It is said that when he did refer to the defence case during the course of his summing-up, it was placed very much in the context of the way the prosecution put the case, rather than the discrete way in which the defence was advanced.

16. In our judgment the criticism that the judge failed to give a single narrative account of the appellant’s evidence is misplaced. A trial judge has a duty to identify the defence case in a summing-up and to summarise it accurately for the benefit of the jury. There is, however, no judicial template as to how this should be done. A judge is not obliged to give a narrative account of a defendant’s evidence. It is often more helpful, particularly where there are a large number of counts, as there were in this case, if he or she does not simply recite the defendant’s case as a piece, but divides and interweaves it with the prosecution evidence on each count, which is what in our judgment the judge did here.

17. Both in her written grounds and before us today Miss Perry makes a number of further criticisms of the judge’s summary of the defence. She points to a number of matters which, in her submission, he omitted to refer to or which, she says, were given insufficient weight. She points, too, to what she says is a contrast between the detailed exposition given of the prosecution case and the evidence of the complainants, and the absence of similar treatment of the appellant’s evidence and the witnesses called on his behalf.

18. However, the exchanges which took place between counsel and the judge at the conclusion of the summing-up are, in our view, instructive. Though Miss Perry raised with the judge her concern that he had not summed up the appellant’s evidence “as he had given it” and as a whole, she conceded both that he had drawn together a number of threads, and that he had clearly reminded the jury of what the appellant had said about each of the allegations. She said:

“I am conscious that you really have covered each matter. The problem with the defence case, which is essentially a denial, is that there is actually very little to say other than it did not happen.”

Miss Perry did not then identify to the judge anything specific relating to the defence that had been omitted from the summing-up that went to any of the significant allegations in the case, although she was expressly invited to do so by Miss Karmy-Jones for the prosecution.

19. We accept that the failure to identify such matters is not an infallible guide to the merits, but in our judgment it is in this case. In our view the further matters now raised do not bear the significance now attached to them with the benefit of hindsight, but which did not occur to counsel at the time.

20. In our view, the judge properly identified for the jury the appellant’s defence to the allegations against him. We do not accept that the defence case was inadequately dealt with or that the summing-up was unfairly balanced. The judge gave a careful and thoughtful exposition of the case as it was put on both sides. In an extensive passage towards the end of his summing-up he identified for the jury, no doubt as a result of Miss Perry’s submissions on the appellant’s behalf and the way the case had been put to the witnesses in cross-examination, a number of matters which might be said to cast doubt on the complainants’ evidence. Rather than a bald recitation of the evidence, the summing-up focused on the issues. In our judgment it was none the worse for that.

21. We turn to the remainder of the grounds of appeal which have been advanced in writing. In ground two Miss Perry submits that the judge was wrong to refuse two applications made by the defence during the course of the trial, on 12 March 2013 and on 14 March 2013, to exclude the evidence of two witnesses, Mr and Mrs Andrews, under section 78 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. For present purposes we are prepared to assume in the appellant’s favour, as Miss Perry asserts, that the application to exclude covered not just the evidence of Mr Andrews, but (at least implicitly) the evidence of Mrs Andrews as well.

22. Mr and Mrs Andrews were an elderly couple who had known the appellant for many years in his capacity as a coach. Following his arrest in relation to the allegations made by C the appellant told them he was innocent and asked for their support, which they gave him. Mr Andrews agreed to be a character witness for the appellant and also provided him with some assistance in the wording of some of the documents he provided to his solicitors, including a document later referred to by the judge as “V5 Benson” which dealt with some questions that might be asked of C.

23. However, after the appellant was released on bail in March 2012 Mr Andrews changed his mind, as he was later to say, because of certain things the appellant had then said to him, including “What if I had done it, which I haven’t, what harm would it have done?” Although Mr Andrews then said to the appellant’s solicitors that he was not prepared to give evidence for the appellant, the solicitors asked him on a number of occasions to do so, including by a communication made during the course of the trial.

24. On 8 March 2013, after Mr and Mrs Andrews had again been approached by the appellant’s solicitors, Mr Andrews sent an e-mail to the Crown Prosecution Service, forwarding an e-mail he had sent to the appellant’s solicitors which set out his position. He reiterated that he did not wish to give evidence for the appellant and said that it was because comments the appellant had made caused him to have serious doubts about the appellant’s innocence.

25. Mr and Mrs Andrews were then contacted by the officer in the case, Detective Constable Leah. On 10 March 2013 they provided prosecution statements. These were disclosed to the defence the following morning and served under cover of a Notice of Further Evidence later that same morning.

26. The defence were given time to consider their position. Legal argument took place on 12 March 2013. It was agreed that certain comments and opinions that Mr Andrews had expressed were inadmissible in any event, and that other passages which were helpful to the appellant concerning his character and coaching ability should remain in. As to the rest, the argument for the appellant at that stage was that the statement of Mr Andrews should not be admitted because he had previously been supportive of the appellant.

27. The judge rejected that argument. He ruled that evidence relating to three issues could be adduced. First, there was the change of defence to the allegations made by A, to which we have already referred. The appellant said that he had omitted the words from the sentence “I never had sex with A or any other form of sexual contact with her” these words “without her consent” in error, and that he had not noticed the error because he was exhausted and hungry. According to Mr and Mrs Andrews however, the appellant had gone to their house directly after the interview in which he gave his prepared statement and emphatically denied he ever had any sexual contact with A. Further, Mr Andrews identified a text to him from the appellant which he had retained on his telephone to similar effect.

28. Second, was the evidence relating to the attitude of the appellant to the allegations.

29. Third was the evidence of how the appellant had come by a letter written to G by her mother, which purported to criticise C and upon which by then the defence had cross-examined G. It was put to G that she had given the letter to the appellant. G said that she had shown it to the appellant and then thrown it away. According to Mr and Mrs Andrews however, the appellant has shown them the letter which he said he had taken from G’s waste bin, telling them “You never know when you might need it”.

30. On 14 March 2013 the defence applied again for the evidence of Mr Andrews to be excluded on the ground that he had been a party to privileged information as he had helped the appellant prepare material for his solicitors. It was also said that further time was needed to prepare for his cross-examination. The judge rejected those arguments.

31. We are not persuaded that the judge erred in either of the rulings that he made. The evidence of Mr and Mrs Andrews had come to light during the course of the trial in the circumstances we have related. In our view the defence had sufficient time to take instructions from the appellant (he was on bail during that time) and to prepare for cross-examination. They were able to challenge Mr Andrews’ evidence insofar as it was disputed. The fact that Mr Andrews’ e-mail was sent after the defence had started to cross-examine C does not provide any support for the assertion now made (but not made to the judge at the trial) that the Andrews’ evidence was somehow “tainted”. Those parts of the evidence permitted by the judge were relevant to issues raised by the defence at trial. There is, as the judge said, no property in a witness, and there were no circumstances which rendered it unfair for the prosecution to rely on their evidence.

32. The further argument on privilege raised on 14 March 2013 was, in our view, hopeless. Mr Andrews was not the appellant’s solicitor. As we have said, his assistance was confined to assisting the appellant with the wording of certain documents he sent to his solicitors. In any event, whatever Mr Andrews knew about the appellant’s defence in relation to the allegations made by C, he did not disclose any of the information to the prosecution and it formed no part of his statement, nor of the evidence that he gave at trial.

33. The third ground of appeal asserts that the judge was wrong to prevent the defence from placing before the jury three letters — two written by G to the appellant and one written by him to her.

34. We can see no basis for criticising the decisions made by the judge. A defendant’s right to cross-examine a witness and to introduce documents for that purpose is not untrammelled but is subject to appropriate control by the trial judge. The letters were personal letters which dealt with the difficulties in the relationship between the appellant and G. They were at most of peripheral relevance to the issues the jury had to decide. The defence were concerned, as we understand it, to show that the appellant had an intense relationship with G in order to support his denial that he had a relationship with C. As it was, G had already accepted in evidence by that stage, as was put to her, that her relationship with the appellant was a close and loving one. The judge permitted the defence to cross-examine G on the letters to reinforce that point and as to the date of certain events which were the points, as we understand it, which the defence wished to establish. We do not accept the fact that the jury were not provided with hard copies, or that Miss Perry was prevented from reading out parts of these letters to no obvious purpose, led to any unfairness.

35. The fourth ground of appeal related to the content of the letter from G’s mother to which we have already referred and which, according to Mr Andrews, had been retrieved by the appellant from G’s bin. It was deployed by the defence during cross-examination of both C and G. It was put to M, for example, that in that letter her grandmother had said that she did not like C very much. That was a suggestion which reduced M to tears. Although the prosecution asked for a copy of the letter, the defence did not provide one. However, after the appellant had been cross-examined about his motives for taking the letter from the bin, the defence produced what purported to be the letter and sought to introduce it during the appellant’s re-examination. The judge refused to permit the defence to introduce it. Miss Perry submits he was wrong to do so.

36. We do not agree. The letter had been deployed, without being shown to the witness or the court, to put to M that her grandmother disliked her. The letter now produced, however, did not contain any such suggestion, as we understand it, and was apparently to be introduced to show that it was anodyne and therefore that the appellant would have no motive to retrieve and keep it. The judge was entitled to take the view (as he put it) that the defence sought to have it both ways, and that the trial should not be either diverted or delayed by finding and then recalling G to have a “voire dire” about the letter.

37. Had the defence wished to produce the letter they could and should have done so earlier and put it to the witnesses who were asked about it in cross-examination. Be that as it may, we are unable to accept that the matter was of any real significance to the issues the jury had to determine, or that this ground is relevant in any way to the safety of the appellant’s conviction, despite the time and attention apparently devoted to the issue at trial.

38. The appellant’s final ground of appeal concerns the direction on delay given by the judge. In our view the judge’s direction on delay dealt properly and carefully with the difficulties which delay may cause in a trial of this nature. He did so both in relation to the prosecution witnesses and in relation to the defence. We are not persuaded that there is any merit in the contention that he did otherwise.

39. We are grateful to Miss Perry for the industry in preparing for this appeal and for the concision of her presentation. But in the end we are entirely satisfied that the appellant’s conviction is safe. Accordingly, his appeal against conviction is dismissed.

40. We should add that we are grateful also to Miss Karmy-Jones for her written submissions and for her attendance today on behalf of the Crown. Thank you both very much.

Please note that victims of abuse may be triggered by reading this information. These links are generally UK based.

  • The Sanctuary for the Abused [A] has advice on how to prevent triggers.
  • National Association for People Abused in Childhood [B] has a freephone helpline and has links to local support groups.
  • One in Four [C]
  • Havoca [D].
  • Useful post on Triggers [E]  from SurvivorsJustice [F] blog.
  • Jim Hoppers pages on Mindfulness [G]  and Meditation [H] may be useful.
  • Hwaairfan blog An Indigenous Australian Approach to Healing Trauma  [J]
  • Survivors UK for victims and survivors of male rape or the sexual abuse of men [K]
  • Voicing CSA group [L] helps arrange survivors meetings in your area
  • A Prescription for me blog Various emotional support links [M]
  • ShatterBoys -“Male Survivors Of Childhood Sexual Abuse Inspiring change, Through Shared Experience Whilst Building Connections…Together We Can Heal” [N]

Links

 

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About cathy fox blog on Child Abuse

the truth will out, the truth will shout, the truth will set us free...
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