May 2021

Man guilty of sex offences against vulnerable victim

A man has been found guilty of a string of sex offences involving a vulnerable victim, who was spared coming to court during the trial in a first for Norfolk courts. 

Michael Smith, 64, of High Street, Dereham, was found guilty of one count of engaging in sexual activity in the presence of a child, causing and inciting a child to engage in sexual activity and causing or inciting a person with a mental disorder impeding choice to engage in sexual activity.

The jury at Norwich Crown Court took less than three hours to convict Smith of all charges.

During the trial the vulnerable victim gave his evidence and was cross examined on a pre-recorded video, which was a first for Norfolk.

The measures deployed meant the victim did not have to directly attend court while the trial took place, but was able to give his evidence in advance.

It is usual for victims in sex cases to give their evidence-in-chief on tape in advance and then be cross-examined over a live link during the actual  trial. However in this case the victim also allowed to be cross-examined on pre-recorded tape.

Judge Andrew Shaw told the jury in his summing up that it was the first Norfolk trial where pre-recorded cross-examination had been deployed in this way.

Judge Shaw said this meant the vulnerable witness did not have to wait until the trial to be cross -examined about his evidence.

He said Smith was present when his barrister Ian James cross-examined the complainant and stressed the cross-examination was carried out in exactly the same way as if it had happened during the trial.

“The use of special measures does not give added support for the prosecution case. The evidence was given as if he was called into the witness box.”

Judge Shaw explained to the jury the measures were to help the complainant give the best evidence he could. 

Following the guilty verdicts Judge Andrew Shaw adjourned sentence for reports.

Smith is due to be sentenced on June 25.