Lady Butler-Sloss criticised for giving evidence for defence in child rape trial
Retired high court judge also gave character evidence in 2007 assault trial of Philip Chard, who was convicted this month of raping 13-year-old girl
Lady Butler-Sloss, a former president of the high court’s family division.
Lady Butler-Sloss, a former president of the high court’s family division, told a jury she was astonished by the rape allegations against Philip Chard, the son of her long-serving cleaner. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA
Monday 24 August 2015 01.01 EDT Last modified on Monday 24 August 2015 01.03 EDT
A prominent retired high court judge, who specialised in family matters, has been criticised for giving evidence for the defence in the case of a man accused of raping a girl – though she knew he had a previous conviction for violence.
Lady Butler-Sloss, a former president of the high court’s family division and now a working peer, had told a jury she was astonished by the allegations against Philip Chard, the son of her long-serving cleaner. Despite her evidence, Chard was convicted of raping a 13-year-old girl and faces a long jail term.
Since then, the Guardian has learned that Butler-Sloss gave character evidence supportive of Chard at another trial eight years ago when he was accused of assaulting a man while working as a nightclub bouncer. Chard was also convicted for that offence, but on that occasion escaped being sent to prison.
Chard’s victim from the 2007 case and his family have expressed anger that Butler-Sloss, who last year stepped down as chair of the independent historical child abuse inquiry, was again prepared to apparently back him in court. Daniel Potter, who sustained a broken jaw in the nightclub attack, said: “She is someone who is very high up. It seems like she has tried to help him twice.”
Potter’s father, Steven, who was in court when Butler-Sloss gave her character evidence, said he had been surprised at the time she had testified given how violent the attack was. “It was strange to see this very powerful person supporting someone who had acted like this. The CCTV made it clear what had happened. Now she’s stood up in court again and tried to help him. I can’t understand it.”
Butler-Sloss was appointed by the government to chair the child sex abuse inquiry but she stood down after it was claimed that there was a conflict of interest because her brother, the late Sir Michael Havers, was attorney general during the 1980s – one of the periods that is to be examined by the panel.
Chard was found guilty of rape of the girl earlier this month. During the trial Butler-Sloss was called to give evidence by Chard’s defence team.
A jury at Exeter crown court was told how Chard, 44, crept into the bedroom where the 13-year-old was sleeping and put his hand inside her pyjamas before returning and forcing her to have sex. The victim said her mind went blank and she remembers feeling angry, shocked, frightened and confused.
Butler-Sloss said she had known Chard for 20 years because his mother, Valerie, was her cleaner at her home in east Devon. Chard, from Lympstone, near Exmouth in Devon, often took his mother to Butler-Sloss’s farmhouse home and sometimes stayed there for a couple of hours.
The peer said: “I was president of the family division and tried numerous cases over 34 years, mostly dealing with sexual or physical abuse. I have considerable experience although I retired in 2005. I was astonished to hear of these allegations. As a judge one knows that other people don’t know what goes on. I did think he is a much less probable offender than many I have come across.”
Chard shook and wept when the 10-2 majority guilty verdicts were returned. He was remanded in custody and told a lengthy jail term was inevitable. He was cleared of four other counts of sexual activity with a child.
In his 2007 trial, Chard was accused of causing grievous bodily harm to Potter while working as a doorman at a club in Exmouth. Potter fractured his jaw in four places, sustained cuts to his chin, lip and tongue and had to have two teeth surgically removed after Chard threw him out of the club for falling asleep on a sofa. Chard, who had no convictions at that point, claimed it had been an accident.
In court Butler-Sloss described him in warm terms. According to a BBC report of the case she said she knew him well. “He is a sensible, calm and very pleasant young man. He is quiet and extraordinarily helpful to me,” she told the court. “I have considerable respect for his common sense. I admire the way he looks after his mother.”
Butler-Sloss also said she knew that Chard went shooting and she had acted as a referee for his gun licence. “I have complete confidence in him and I was totally satisfied that I could act as a referee.”
But the jury found Chard guilty. The judge, John Neligan, told Chard: “[Potter] had not been causing any trouble in the club apart from being asleep and not leaving as quietly as perhaps he should. However, you have never been in trouble before and although this offence is so serious that a prison sentence is called for I feel able to suspend it.” Chard was ordered to pay his victim compensation and do 200 hours unpaid community work.
Asked by the Guardian why she had testified in the recent case when she must have known that Chard had a conviction for violence, Butler-Sloss said: “On the first occasion I gave evidence of character. I did not give evidence of character in the latest trial.” Rather she said she had given evidence of a factual nature and insisted she was not giving testimony about his “general character”. There is no suggestion that Butler-Sloss has broken any rules.
August 18, 2015 · 6:40 pm
Paedophile Philip Chard has been convicted despite former CSA Inquiry chair Baroness Butler-Sloss being a character witness on his behalf. She’d previously told the court: “I had no concerns about Mr Chard. I was astonished by these allegations. I think he is a much less probable offender than many I have come across.”
She was WRONG!
This I think demonstrates just how ridiculous it is that character witnesses should be allowed to give evidence on behalf of defendants. Paedophiles are by nature deceitful and very few know what they are really like. I commend the good sense of the jury who have ignored Butler-Sloss’ ‘expert’ opinion and made their judgement on the facts of the case but really the jury in any criminal case should not be subjected to potentially prejudicial and subjective assessments by friends and acquaintances of the defendant.
Such opinions perhaps have a place in mitigation after the jury have delivered their verdict but not before.
On a different issue, I had to explained to this victim of Philip Chard previously why I had to hold this comment back while the trial was ongoing but I think her view is far more valuable than that of Barroness Butler-Sloss
I was 17 and chard was 32 I was dating him at the time I use to go to dame Elizabeth butler sloss house with him she never really talked. Him and I was actually abused by this man at her home! How can she give a character witness about someone she knows nothing about? Just because the mum worker for her for many years and her character witness is given because of her persuasion. I have left the pass over 10 years ago and I wish I had said something. This man enjoyed young ladies and often dressed me as a school girl. Dame Elisabeth butler sloss is a very intelligent women I respect who she is but in this case she can not give this man a character reference and is protecting a predator of young girls! I hope her stupid character reference is not taken into account! She says he doesn’t look like a pedo… Sorry what does a pedo typically look like?…… Sicken by this all. This.man needs to be locked away and dame Elizabeth needs to stick her nose out of this she knows nothing. Charts mother who I know so well is just as sick as him!
A man has been found guilty of raping a 13-year-old girl.
Phillip Chard, from Lympstone, Exmouth, was convicted of rape and one count of sexual activity with a child.
During the trial at Exeter Crown Court, retired High Court Judge Lady Butler-Sloss had given evidence on behalf of the 44-year-old, and described him as a “much less probable offender than many I have come across”.
Mr Chard is due for sentencing at the same court on 14 September.
School caretaker Michael Pendry ‘walks free’ from indecent images charge?
By danbunting – 15th January 2015
On 14th January 2015 the BBC (and other outlets) reported that Michael Pendry received a Community Order for possession of indecent images. Or, as it was actually headlined ‘Abuse images school caretaker Michael Pendry walks free‘. Cue outrage.
So, is this an outrage? Should we be shocked at the sentence?
Well. The facts in the news reports are slim. He “had 658 “filthy images” of children in his cottage in the grounds of Radnor Primary School, Cardiff. He was caught after sharing the images online with other paedophiles for “sexual gratification”. Pendry admitted three counts of possessing indecent photographs of children and one count of possessing extreme pornographic images involving animals.”
The starting point is the Sentencing Guidelines – go to page 76. This is not as helpful as the old ones (isn’t that always the way?) but we can still work out what’s going on.
Although he was charged with possession, lets have a look at the table for distribution and the sentences from that over the page. What the appropriate sentence is depends on the Category. If this were 658 images at Category A, then the starting point (after a trial) is 3 years. In which case a Community Order looks very lenient.
If however there were 658 images at Category C, then the starting point is 13 weeks in prison. Mr Pendry pleaded guilty, so there will be a further reduction from that. In those circumstances, the Community Order seems absolutely spot on.
The reason why a Community Order rather a Suspended Sentence is that a Community Order can last for 3 years (the maximum for a Suspended Sentence is 2) which gives a full opportunity to complete the Sex Offenders Treatment Programme.
This is far, far more likely to stop him re-offending than a 10 week prison sentence where he will be out in 5 with no supervision. For that reason, if those were the facts, the Community Order was absolutely the right sentence.
Was this sentence an outrage? Whilst it’s always nice and simple to see things in black and white, the answer here is ‘it depends on what the images were’. Or, in other words, ‘it depends on the facts of the case and we don’t have enough in the news report to say’.
Mr Pendry was lucky in the sense that after this was reported, the Stuart Kerner story broke, which deflected attention away from this. It is unlikely, therefore, that there will be an AG Ref on this one (unless these really were all Category 1 images).
One last thing – he didn’t ‘walk free’ from Court. He left Court on a 3 year Community Order, to suggest otherwise sounds like he ‘got away with it’. He didn’t. He is on the Sex Offenders Register, he is banned from working with children and he has three years of treatment and punishment in the Community ahead of him. Bad reporting from the BBC.
New post on theneedleblog
Stuart Kerner gets suspended sentence – AG already stepping in. Before possibly stepping out …