Woman seeks to bring private assault charges

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The Independent Online
A WOMAN in Scotland who alleges she was assaulted three times by a former boyfriend and claims the police failed to give her adequate protection, has taken the rare legal step of seeking the approval of the Lord Advocate to bring a private prosecution.

Only two successful private prosecutions have taken place this century, the last in a rape case in 1982.

Should the case be brought, it will focus attention on the Matrimonial Homes Act which, although offering legal protection to married woman, does not extend the same rights to single women. This potential blind-spot in legal rights is under review.

Sharon Brady, 19, from Blackburn in West Lothian, is seeking the private prosecution against a man she claims battered her three times.

She alleges the first attack happened on 1 August at about 9pm in Blackburn, when the man punched her jaw. She telephoned the police but said: 'I don't believe they turned up.'

The second incident is said to have happened at about 3.30am the following morning. She claimed the man pulled her hair and punched her on the face as she lay on a couch at home. When she ran to her children's bedroom, the attacker, she claimed, followed and continued the assault.

When police found her in a telephone box after calling for assistance, she said: 'My eye was swollen and they asked me what happened. They took me back to the house to find my former boyfriend still there.' She claimed the police handcuffed him and told him he would have to go to jail or to his mother's home.

Miss Brady said: 'He threatened to kill me in front of the police. They took him away and I presumed it was to his mother's house. Ten minutes later he was back. I nearly died with fear. He asked me if I thought it was smart calling the police and started hitting me with a stick on the legs, holding my throat.' She is now in hiding in Glasgow.

Cameron Fyfe, Miss Brady's lawyer, said his client felt a private prosecution was the only course left. 'She feels abandoned by the legal system. All she wanted was protection but the police appear to be treating this as a domestic incident.'

A formal complaint has been lodged with Lothian and Borders Police.

Mr Fyfe said assault, whether in or outside the home, should be treated as a criminal matter by police, and acted upon.

A spokesman for the Crown Office in Edinburgh said that even applications for a private application, let alone permission from the Lord Advocate, were extremely rare. He said: 'We have not yet received this application, but we will be asking for a report from the local fiscal's office.'

The Crown Office said there was likley to have been insufficient evidence for a prosecution to have been brought, and if this was the case, it was unlikely that the Lord Advocate's consent would be given.

The spokesman added: 'I really don't see anything coming of this at this stage.'