Further to Sabine McNeill’s plea and case management hearing on Monday, we have now learned that her trial on charges of having violated her restraining order will begin the week of 9th January, 2017. We have had no word yet on how long it’s expected to take.
The restraining order was imposed following a finding of not guilty at the end of her trial, along with Neelu Berry, for conspiracy to commit witness intimidation.
Alert readers (and those who were able to stay awake during Monday evening’s webcast in which Neelu made a long and rambling speech about Sabine’s hearing) will recall that Neelu stated Sabine had not entered a plea.
However, the fact that the trial has been scheduled would seem to disprove that statement: it appears that Sabine did indeed enter a plea of ‘not guilty’.
Are the restraining orders legal?
We’ve now heard several Hoaxtead mobsters complain that it is somehow ‘illegal’ or improper that HH Judge Worsley saw fit to impose restraining orders on the defendants, despite the fact that they were acquitted of the charges laid against them.
We’ve discussed this before, but we thought we’d take a moment to reiterate how that works, for the hard-of-thinking among the Hoaxtead mob:
According to the CPS webpage, restraining orders may indeed be issued post-acquittal:
Section 12 of the DVCVA 2004 introduced section 5A into the PHA 1997, which allows the court to make a restraining order after acquitting a defendant of any offence if the court considers it necessary to do so to protect a person from harassment from the defendant.
Unlike restraining orders on conviction, there is no power to protect a person from fear of violence that falls short of harassment where the defendant has been acquitted.
Harassment is not defined in the PHA 1997, except that it includes causing a person alarm or distress. For further guidance see Stalking and Harassment.
Section 5A was introduced to deal with those cases where there is clear evidence that the victim needs protection, but there is insufficient evidence to convict on the particular charges before the court. It is still open to the victim to seek a non-molestation order or injunction from a civil court. However, this more proactive approach on the part of the courts using section 5A is seen as not only avoiding delay and increased costs to the legal aid budget, but also providing a more seamless process of providing protection to victims.
Section 5A only applies where there has been an acquittal. It does not apply where proceedings have been withdrawn or discontinued.
(All emphasis ours.)
So there you have it. Post-acquittal restraining orders are in fact quite proper and legal, not ‘farcical’ or ‘Monty Pythonesque’ as some have tried to allege.
Of course, we would never dream of speculating as to how such orders might be enforced in any cases currently before the courts. Just clarifying a point of law, for those who are interested.