Man walks free from court after five-day assault trial
A MAN has been acquitted on charges of threatening behaviour and assault towards his then girlfriend after a five- day trial and hours of jury deliberation at Fort William Sheriff Court.
The jury was instructed by the sheriff to return an unanimous verdict of not guilty for the charge of threatening behaviour, and they returned a majority verdict of not proven for the assault charge.
Jeffrey Kell, from Canada, had been charged with assaulting his then girlfriend and choking her to the point of her losing consciousness at a hotel in Fort William on May 20, 2016.
The complainant claimed he had ‘snapped’ and started attacking her during an argument. She told the court they had started ‘ bickering’ after having a few drinks and engaging in sexual activity.
She told the court the argument became physical and he jumped out the window onto a roof below before returning to the room where further violence ensued and it was at this point she became unconscious. Kell, however, said he only acted aggressively to defend himself against her attacks. He also told the court he choked her twice on her request as part of sexual activity, which she denied, and twice more to defend himself against her choking him. He denied she lost consciousness at any point.
Kell also said the complainant pushed him out of the window. He said he wouldn’t jump as he is still recovering from serious injuries after being in a road accident in 2008.
The complainant admitted to the court she had retracted her original statement and accusations, through an affidavit, which she then told the court was a false account of events, meaning she had lied under oath, as she had it authorised by a lawyer in Canada.
In his closing speech, defence solicitor Gerry Sweeney asked the jury if they could trust such a liar, while procurator fiscal depute David Morton closed by pointing out that after coming out the window, Kell had an opportunity to escape which he didn’t take, which he said means it cannot be classed as self- de- fence, as for that there must be no reasonable way of escape.
Over the course of the trial, the court also heard evidence from the night porter at the hotel, two other guests who were staying in the hotel at the time of the incident, and police officers involved in the case.
They also saw medical evidence and photographs of the scene and a recording of Kell being charged, originally with attempted murder.
None of this was enough to satisfy the jury that Kell was guilty and he is now free to return to Canada.