Sunday, April 10, 2011

Christmas Time

The Magistrate Court calendar is a little out of whack from reality. While some cases can be dealt with in a matter of days, others drag on for months. So just as the daffodils are coming out, Christmas has come to the courthouse in the shape of a bunch of offences dating back to December.

Christmas 2010 was not a season of goodwill to all men, and it certainly wasn't to all women. It was the season of dysfunctional families forced to spend time together, with an added sprinkling of financial worries, unreasonable expectations and binge drinking.

There's a widespread delusion that domestic violence is about a mentally deficient alcoholic man in a dirty string vest beating up on his long-suffering wife because his dinner wasn't on the table when he got back from the pub. In fact, it's hardly ever about that.

Tommy Cooper beat his wife. Hillary Clinton beat her husband. Ringo Starr beat his wife. Liza Minelli beat her husband. Abraham Lincoln was beaten by his wife. With Humphrey Bogart it was more 50:50 with his wife. The legendary libel lawyer George Carman punched his wife in the stomach when she was pregnant and threatened her with two knives, saying: "Which one do you want in you first?"

The abuse case I worked on concerned a very successful local businessman who took his family out for Christmas dinner, had a skin-full, went home  and then proceeded to beat his wife and then his teenage son who had gone to protect his mum. Despite his entire family coming to court and giving consistent testimony against him, he still insisted that he was the victim - in his view his son had jumped him for no good reason and his wife and other kids had lied to get back at him (for reasons unknown). Had his dog been called as a witness, I'm sure he would have protested that that dog had always had it in for him.

There were some particularly disturbing details in the story. For example, the wife, as soon as the argument started, went to the kitchen to tidy cupboards while her husband verbally abused their teenage daughter in the lounge. It spoke volumes of a long pattern of abuse that she can cope with only be going to a place where she has power and blocking out the unmanageable.

I looked at the man in the dock and wondered what was going on in his head. I sensed incredible weakness - a man who had lost the control he craved and could only impose his will through throwing his weight around.

I almost pitied him.


1 comment:

The Defence Brief said...

I briefly represented a man who had beaten his girlfriend to within an inch of her life (literally, he broke her ribs causing a lung to puncture) and kept her prisoner and under repeated beatings for about 12-hours until her sister arrived to drive their kids to school.

The client didn't like my advice, which as I recall was to keep his mouth shut because he wanted to tell the police how he was the victim in the whole thing!

People like that are often inadequate and think only of themselves.