My Court Case
Where do I begin?
In the year and a half since I announced I had taken my ex boyfriend to court on domestic abuse charges, I haven't touched the subject much on here since. I talk about it extensively on social media and have contributed pieces here and there to other online outlets, but I've never sat down and written out exactly what I went through during my court case. I thought it might be helpful to do so now to give you an idea of what it's like. Having gone through the process, it was a huge part of my recovery but I can also understand why people don't go to the police. It's probably the hardest thing I've ever done, including being with my abuser for six years.
Before I begin, I should mention that the domestic abuse law in Scotland changed shortly after Scott was sentenced, to include mental and emotional abuse. You can now be convicted of domestic abuse in Scotland without having laid a finger on your victim. This new legislation would have made a huge difference to my own experience and I'm really pleased for all of the victims who come after me, while simultaneously mourning for myself.
Making the decision
I had never, ever considered taking Scott to court. It had never crossed my mind and one of the reasons is that it took me almost a year after we broke up to really get to grips with the idea that our relationship had been an abusive one. I did this with a lot of reading and counselling and realised that my own personal justification had been: "But I didn't have any broken bones!" As long as I stayed out of hospital (though I did have to go to A&E twice), I thought I was fair game.
The seed was planted on a first date with a cute ginger guy, who asked the right questions and deduced I'd been in an abusive relationship straight out of the gate. One date led to me moving in four months later and every time I freaked out about something irrational, or cried or couldn't understand my feelings, he'd listen and hold me and say, "You know, you can still go to the police" and leave it at that.
The straw that broke the camel's back was an email I got from Scott asking for an N64 game that I had, that he insisted belonged to him. It didn't - I got it from my cousin James and it probably would have cost about a fiver on eBay. But Scott was proving a point; he wanted to see if I would still do what he wanted. He hadn't changed a bit, or learned any lesson from his time with me. He was still the same controlling person. And his tone in the emails made me so furious that I walked into a police station a few months later to report him.
The other reason for going to the police was his new girlfriend. She was a lot younger than me and I realised I couldn't sleep soundly at night if I hadn't done my best to communicate to her that the man she was with was dangerous. Approaching her would simply lead to him tightening his grip and dismissing me as a crazy ex girlfriend so I needed empirical, irrefutable evidence. Even if she didn't leave him, she'd know the signs to look out for. It was my way of sending up a flare from my lifeboat.
Going to the police/Making a statement
Mike and I turned up at Elgin Police Station on a Thursday evening and were seen almost immediately. We were taken into a little interview room like the ones you see on telly because they didn't have anything else free, which was a little intimidating but they were really apologetic. "My" policeman took some notes about my relationship with Scott generally, picking out the main points and aspects of abuse. He also did a routine questionnaire they use when dealing with anyone vulnerable and then I went home. They said they'd send round another police officer as soon as they could to take a full statement from me. I was there for an hour and a half and it was a relief that they took me seriously immediately.
A female police officer came round first thing on Saturday morning to take my full statement. I wish I had made a note of everything I could remember before I started the process, because I ended up having to call up the police every other day to say, "I've just remembered something else!" When you're in an abusive relationship, everything that happens to you is completely normalised so asking me to recall a time I was pinned down and spat on is no different to asking you to list what you had to eat on a Tuesday three years ago. The police wanted dates for absolutely everything. I was lucky that Scott and I lived in three different flats, so I was at least able to slot an event into the place I was living, and therefore an estimated time. I used facebook photos too to get dates we'd gone on nights out or met with friends and then gone home to "argue".
The police officer who took my statement was just a standard "beat cop" and not trained in domestic abuse and although I really liked her, I found myself having to explain basic abuse concepts to her and every time I said something awful he'd done, she'd say, "Oh, I would have killed him!" I knew what she meant but what she was accidently saying was that she would have dealt with it a lot better than I did.
Giving my statement took about nine hours that Saturday and she came back on Monday morning for a few hours too. I was told they would be in touch and then it was just a matter of waiting.
Collecting more evidence
Matt was a police officer who specialised in domestic abuse and my case was handed over to him. The problem is, I've never met him because he was based 125 miles away in Dundee. He interviewed my friends and my sister, who was feeling ballsy as hell until she had to talk about what happened to me and found herself crying the whole way through giving her statement. Everyone said Matt was fantastic. He also spoke to some of mine and Scott's mutual friends, including Nicole who actually called Matt up to volunteer information.
Scott's best friend Euan, who I was extremely close with, refused to make a statement. He always took my side or stayed over in the early days when he was worried about me, so that hurt me quite a lot and still does sometimes.
Matt asked me to go to the doctor about the problems I still have with my right eardrum. It's gotten much better the last few years but back then, I was still going temporarily deaf and was in a lot of pain. Matt wanted to make sure the GP would make a link between Scott perforating my eardrum (he took my head off a door) and the problems I was still having with it.
The GP was A DICK. When I told her why I was there, she said, "Oh, so you're just doing something about this (going to the police) now?" and told me my eardrum should have healed fine and it looked ok to her. There's something about doctors that make me so scared to argue back and I was very emotional and unsure of myself, so I didn't say anything and called Matt in tears.
"Don't worry, we don't need her. We have enough."
My friend Cathy was a key witness because she'd kept a threatening message Scott had sent her years before when she had tried to intervene and get me out. The problem was that she lives in Cardiff now and because English and Welsh Police are completely separate from Police Scotland, she would have to come up north to make a statement. Luckily, her parents live in Perth and she was coming home for Christmas so Matt gave her the details of my case so she could turn up at Perth station and give a statement.
She didn't tell me until after it was over, because she didn't want to upset me, but she had a shitty time giving her statement. The officers she spoke to made a big fuss, sighing and making her wait for ages and getting annoyed every time she tried to tell them she'd been asked to give a statement.
Eventually she was taken into an interview room by a male police officer who disinterestedly took notes until she mentioned there had been sexual assault in my relationship. He suddenly paid attention, shouting:
"YOU CAN'T GO AROUND SAYING THINGS LIKE THAT - THAT'S INCREDIBLY SERIOUS!!" He made a huge fuss about it for the rest of the interview while Cathy tried to explain that she knows how serious it is; THAT'S WHY MATT TOLD HER TO COME IN AND MAKE A STATEMENT. Thank goodness Cathy can stick up for herself; if I was a victim coming in to that reaction, I probably would have gone home to cry. Since I lived in Perth for the duration of my relationship, I'm glad I waited to report him if that's the kind of response I could have expected.
The arrest and the wait
Scott was arrested in February, almost four months after I went to the police. Euan had warned him, so he was prepared and brought a solicitor in with him. He responded with "no comment" for the whole of the interview (except when Matt got the date of our breakup wrong and he corrected him) and then was released on bail. Matt said none of the sexual assault charges would be taken forward because I was just too vague and it's him vs me. That was hard to hear but exactly what I expected.
The police didn't tell me what they'd charged him with because now the case is passed to the Crown Office who compress the case and can turn what were originally a dozen charges into two or three more serious ones and they didn't want me to be disappointed or confused. There was an alert on my house so if I phoned 999 from my mobile or home number, a police car would be dispatched to my address immediately, no matter what. I didn't really need it - I knew Scott wouldn't turn up at my house or anything, but it was reassuring.
The wait for a court date was horrendous. Scott was given a couple of chances along the way to plead guilty but he entered a 'not guilty' plea on both occasions. I kept expecting the phone to ring at work and it never did. Once we got into the summer, six months after his arrest, I started phoning the Crown Office for updates. They are legally obliged to tell me what he's been charged with but they wouldn't.
The thing that pissed me off the most was that Scott knew more than me. He knew what he'd been charged with, what the game plan was and what his plea would be. He had a solicitor who could prepare him for court and tell him what questions he would be asked. I had nobody.
A court date
Ten months after Scott was arrested, and 14 months after I walked into Elgin police station, I got a letter from the Crown Office confirming our date at Perth Sherriff Court. It was Monday 30th of January. I had something to focus on now and with Christmas and my birthday between me and the court date, there were plenty of pleasant distractions.
Two weeks before, I bought an outfit.
A week before, I got my hair cut.
On Wednesday, the Procurator Fiscal's (the prosecutor in Scotland) office got in touch with my accommodation details for Sunday night.
On Friday at 2pm, my office phone rang. Scott had just entered a guilty plea.
I didn't work for the rest of the afternoon. I phoned everyone I knew and told them. My mum was driving and had to pull over into a layby to sob.
My friends Lauren and Joanne and my sister had all arranged to take me out for dinner in Perth on Sunday night so I'd be relaxed for Monday morning. We kept our date and celebrated instead. Scott formally entered his plea the next day.
He was sentenced in April 2017, 18 months after I went to the police. I wasn't nervous about what he would get - I was nervous about how it would be reported in the newspapers. I was very lucky; it was picked up by The Sunday Post and the journalist was very sympathetic towards me. You can read it here and it's the first thing that comes up now when you google Scott's name, which is extremely satisfying.
I didn't go to the sentencing - I didn't want to give him the satisfaction, so my boyfriend Mike went. I think he was curious. He'd been so calm throughout the whole process, holding my hand and reassuring me but when he saw Scott in the flesh, he was shaking with rage for a long time afterwards. Scott's girlfriend went to the sentencing with him.
He was given nine months community service and ordered to pay me £500 compensation, which he did in £100 instalments. If he could have found a way to pay me £1.85 a day for nine months, I think he would have. The Sheriff said he'd matured since he was with me. If he had matured, he would have put in a guilty plea on day one instead of the day before court.
There are only two things that upset me now.
One is the loss of my twenties. I met Scott when I was 19 and we broke up when I was 25. I was 26 when I reported him, and 28 when he was sentenced. I've only started in the career I've always wanted because of all this lost time. I've come to terms with it but it's not easy.
And the other: I'm a communications assistant so I read newspapers every day at work. Reading other people's punishments and comparing them to Scott's is a bad habit I haven't found a way to avoid yet. Someone local got a jail sentence for trashing a police cell. Am I worth less than a bed and a CCTV camera? Another two guys were fined £400 each for play fighting in the street. Is that almost as bad as keeping someone prisoner for six years? It's tough. I don't know how to mentally square that away yet.
The support I got from my online friends during the court case is something I will never forget. To anyone who ever reached out to me, you have no idea what it did. Thank you.