A female police officer, who was accused of assaulting her amputee husband, has had the case against her dismissed after a District Judge described his evidence as ‘lacking complete credibility’.
At Coleraine Magistrates’ Court sitting in Ballymena on Monday (August 23), Sharon Philips (50) — with her addressrecorded as Coleraine Police station — was accused with common assault after an incident on June 8, 2018, which was captured on home CCTV.
The case had previously attracted media attention when the defendant’s husband & complainant, Steven Philips, spoke to a journalist at the Sunday World, with the story making the papers front page at the time.
The defendant’s husband, who was disabled following a leg amputation, reported to police that whilst helping to unhitch a horsebox from the couple’s vehicle on the morning of June 8, his hand was injured, resulting in the couple getting into a heated argument.
Mr Philips claimed his wife began to “sort of headbutt” him, calling him a “c**t” and throwing him onto the vehicle’s bonnet. The court heard he told his wife, “you can’t do that, that’s assault”, to which she replied, “I’ll see what f’in assault is” before throwing him to the ground.
CCTV was captured at the couple’s property showing the incident and played to those present in the court.
The court heard from Mr Philips that his wife continued with expletives, making no attempt to help him to his feet.
Once on his feet and returning to the house, he describes his wife as still “ranting and raving”, thinking she was going to have another “go at him”, telling the court, “I was quite prepared to defend myself”.
As a result of the alleged assault, Mr Philips said he attended A&E with his arm as a precaution, where he was diagnosed with only soft tissue damage.
On arrival back home again, the court heard that the defendant was standing ironing, at which point she began to wave her mobile phone, shouting: “Do you want to ring my friends and report me. I’ll ring them for you.” concluding, “I am the f’in police.”
Mr Philips, a former police reserve, went on to tell the court he did report his wife to the police that evening. However, a few weeks later, he was told that the complaint “needed to go away because of her job”, with the defendant using their son as leverage. Mr Philips told the court he did retract the complaint, but later, after visits with his son were removed anyway, he re-introduced the complaint again.
Acting on behalf of the defendant, Barrister Mr Sean Devlin began his cross-examination of Mr Philips, saying that the first aggression on the day was actually from him and that when Mrs Philips refused help from him to unhitch the horsebox, she was the one met with expletives.
Denying this, Mr Philips said that he only swore when his wife stood on his fingers and at no other time. But it was put to Mr Philips that he continued his verbal abuse towards his wife, including calling her “a useless f**kin b**ch” – Mr Philips calling this a lie.
It was this verbal abuse, Mr Devlin told the court, that was the “preamble” to Mr Philips being pushed when he attempted to came towards his client.
Mr Philips made a total of four statements to the police, one of which he states that his wife had admitted to him as having an affair, telling police their relationship had “deteriorated” and that on the date of the incident, things had “come to a head”.
The court heard that the defendant described her husband as an “angry paranoid” and that he had been “aggressive to her in the run-up to the June incident”.
During the course of the cross-examination, the defence raised several inconsistencies between Mr Philips four statements that he had given to police, with Mr Devlin suggesting he was a “compulsive liar” and that he was “lying throughout” his various accounts.
The defence also introduced a lengthy 26-page document of text message exchanges between Mr Philips and his daughter. These weren’t read aloud in court due to the nature of some of the language they contain, directed mainly at the defendant.
On several occasions, as defence Barrister Mr Devlin worked through the document presenting examples of language, Mr Philips apologised, telling the court his language was “absolutely disgusting”, but at the time, he was “very angry” and was continuing to “self medicate” with alcohol.
During the course of his evidence, Mr Philips also made several unsubstantiated claims about his wife, which included ‘missing money’ and theft of ‘police equipment and evidence’, claims which the court dismissed.
In concluding his evidence, Mr Philips told District Judge Peter King: “The video just says it all.” But dismissing this statement, Judge King questioned the truthfulness and reliability of Mr Philips evidence.
As the defendants lengthy 12-page police statement had already been agreed and accepted into evidence by both the prosecution and defence, Mrs Philips did not have to give any further evidence to the court, instead following the case whilst seated in the body of the court.
Following a second viewing of the CCTV, Judge King concluded the contest, telling the court: “Mr Philips told me the video speaks for itself. It does not, context is of course everything, and we have a flavour of the context in the (text message) evidence.”
“I appreciate Mr Devlin sparing the blushes of several parties by not going through some of the absolutely disgraceful, racist and misogynist and violent language used, but it is quite clear that the version of Mr Philips that is evidenced by the content of the (text messages), is somebody who was self-medicating with alcohol to a level where he felt the violent racism and misogyny which is exhibited, was an appropriate back and forth banter and joke between him and his daughter.”
“I have absolutly no hesitation in indicating the evidence of Mr Philips lacks complete credibility.” Judge King said, telling the court he only believed a mear fraction of what he heard during the contest, putting Mr Philips credability down to his ‘alcohol haze”.
Judge King referred to “internal contradictions” in both the evidence presented to the court and the four previous police statements given by Mr Philips.
Making his ruling, Judge King rejected Mr Philips evidence in full and said: “There was no basis for the court to find beyond reasonable doubt that the prosecution had a case” and dismissed the charge against Mrs Philips.