Judge frees accused man over 'honest' witness

By Aleisha Scott,Press Association
Tuesday 13 January 2009 17:53

A judge freed a man accused of robbing a driving instructor after he ruled the alleged victim's evidence identifying him was too believable.

Mother-of-two Denise Dawson, 36, was praised for being "honest, utterly decent and brave" and was even given a £250 award by Judge Jamie Tabor QC for her courage.

But the same judge deemed yesterday that her split-second identification of Liam Perks, 20, who was accused of robbing her as she gave a driving lesson in Bristol, was not enough.

Judge Tabor ruled at Bristol Crown Court that her evidence would sway the jury, the Bristol Evening Post reported.

Perks, of Fennell Grove, Henbury, who denied robbing Mrs Dawson in December 2007, was found not guilty on Judge Tabor's direction, after he stopped the trial yesterday.

Judge Tabor told the court: "Denise Dawson was a particularly impressive witness because she showed courage, clarity of thought and was undoubtedly honest.

"The jury may lend more weight to her evidence than her facts allow.

"You cannot be sure she got it right... had this been the Archbishop of Canterbury's son, would I have allowed (the trial) to go on? The answer is no."

A group of youths had approached Mrs Dawson's Ford Focus car as she was giving a lesson in Lowther Road, Southmead, Bristol.

They smashed a back window and reached in to steal a laptop and bag containing cash.

Mrs Dawson, who runs Denise's Driving School, said she ran after the thief but returned to the car to find other offenders rummaging around.

She told the jury that she was then punched in the face.

The gang fled the scene, and she realised one of them had grabbed her mobile phone.

In February last year Mrs Dawson identified Perks during a video identity parade as one of the robbers, the court heard.

Her 26-year-old pupil also attended a video identity parade but could not make a positive identification.

After the case collapsed, Mrs Dawson, from Southmead, told the Bristol Evening Post: "I feel Liam Perks got a better deal out of it than I did.

"I feel very upset - what more do they want? I can't sit there with a camera, how much more evidence can I get?"

Mrs Dawson said later: "The judge was really nice and so were all the court staff. I just felt that, when you swear on the bible to tell the whole truth, what's the point if the jury aren't going to be allowed to decide?

"I feel very let down and very upset. I brought my children up to respect their elders and I expect the same. I just feel they are laughing in my face because I stood up and told the truth."