Judge who locked up witness in rape case escapes punishment

A JUDGE who locked up a reluctant witness in a rape case was criticised by the Lord Justice-General yesterday for his "unjustified and disproportionate" action.

However, Roger Craik, QC, was told that Lord Hamilton, Scotland's most senior judge, did not intend to take any action against him, allowing him to continue to preside over High Court trials.

Ann Robertson, 43, was held overnight in custody after she stormed out of court and refused to complete her evidence.

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She lodged an official complaint about her treatment and said Mr Craik should be sacked.

In yesterday's announcement of the findings of a "thorough investigation", Lord Hamilton said Ms Robertson had put the trial judge in a difficult position and her behaviour could not have been ignored by him.

However, he upheld the complaint and told Ms Robertson: "I have come to the view that his decision that you be detained overnight, which must have been traumatic for you, was, in the circumstances, disproportionate."

George Cummings, 69, from Grangemouth, was jailed for three and a half years for sexually abusing two sisters while they were children.

He had also been accused of raping Ms Robertson as a child, but that charge was dropped.

Before being called to give evidence at the High Court in Edinburgh, arrangements were made to try to put her at ease. The court was cleared of the public and a female supporter was allowed to sit near her. She had been offered screens to separate her from the accused, but declined.

"Ms Robertson appeared to have particular difficulty in testifying … while still being questioned by the prosecutor, she abruptly and without permission left the court," said the statement issued on behalf of Lord Hamilton.

"She was ultimately persuaded to return. Her evidence resumed." But Ms Robertson stormed out a second time, and again had to be persuaded to return.

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Mr Craik, a temporary judge, said he recognised she was under pressure and in a difficult situation, but told her she was under an obligation to give evidence.

If she felt she could not continue, he told her, she should intimate that and he would decide whether or not to adjourn.

Ms Robertson refused to answer questions about the effects of the alleged abuse on her adult relationships, and would not continue with her evidence.

The judge adjourned the trial until the next day. He wanted Ms Robertson to be seen by a doctor to determine if she was fit to give evidence and, concerned she might not return, ordered her to be detained. The following day, "with some difficulty", she completed her evidence.

The statement added: "The Lord Justice-General has concluded that the trial judge's decision to order Ms Robertson's detention overnight was dis-proportionate. He has advised him accordingly. No further action is being taken.

"While the conduct of cases involving sexual abuse is a difficult and delicate matter, the court has a duty to ensure that the accused receives a fair and expeditious trial."