6 November 2009
by Irene WILSON
against the United Kingdom
lodged on 2 February 2009
STATEMENT OF FACTS
The applicant, Ms Irene Wilson, is a British national who was born in 1958 and lives in Londonderry. She is represented before the Court by Mr Peter Bowles, a lawyer practising in Saintfield, County Down.
A. The circumstances of the case
The facts of the case, as submitted by the applicant, may be summarised as follows.
On 7 October 2008, the applicant was assaulted by her husband at their home. She suffered a severed artery on the right side of her head, which required eight stitches. She also suffered multiple bruising and sustained a blow to her head when she fell against a banister. The applicant maintains that this was the last in a series of assaults which had been carried out by her husband in the course of their thirty-two year marriage.
Her husband, S.W., was arrested and charged with causing grievous bodily harm with intent to do grievous bodily harm contrary to section 18 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861. When the matter came to trial, the prosecution reduced the charge to one of grievous bodily harm contrary to section 20 of the same Act.
S.W. pleaded guilty and was sentenced to eighteen months’ imprisonment, which was suspended for three years.
The applicant considered this sentence to be excessively lenient and complained without success to various public bodies in Northern Ireland. In particular, by letter dated 10 March 2009, the Attorney-General stated he did not have the power to apply to have the sentence reviewed by the Court of Appeal as that power was limited to the most serious offences.
B. Relevant domestic law
The offences covered by sections 18 and 20 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 are two of the three principal offences against the person where bodily harm is caused (the other, less serious offence is actual bodily harm contrary to section 47 of the Act). Section 18 carries a maximum sentence of imprisonment for life; section 20 carries a maximum sentence of imprisonment for five years.
The applicant complains under Articles 6, 8 and 10 of the Convention that the suspended sentence was unduly lenient and was much lower than would have been delivered had the offence occurred outside marriage. The criminal proceedings were also conducted without sufficient regard for her rights as a victim. The applicant maintains that the decision to reduce the charge was made without any reference or explanation to her. The applicant further maintains that, before sentencing, the trial judge stated that he did not want to cause the applicant more distress by having the emergency call she had made or any pictures of her injuries adduced in evidence. However, the applicant states that, in fact, she would have preferred the trial court and the public to have heard the full facts of the assault.
The applicant also complains under Article 13 of the Convention that she did not have an effective remedy in respect of the above complaints.
QUESTIONS TO THE PARTIES