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22-year-old appeals rape and choking conviction

22-year-old appeals rape and choking conviction

Wednesday 26 January 2022

22-year-old appeals rape and choking conviction

Wednesday 26 January 2022

A 22-year-old who was found guilty by a jury in September of raping and choking a woman is appealing his conviction.

Alex John Hill, who is yet to be sentenced, appeared before the Court of Appeal on Tuesday, where his lawyer argued that the jury’s verdict was unsafe.

It had found Hill, who was 21 at the time, guilty of one charge of rape and one of grave and criminal assault, both committed in 2019. It had also found him not guilty of two other rape charges and three common assault charges against the same woman.

At the appeal, Advocate Mark Boothman argued that the rape conviction was unsafe because the woman’s evidence for the one count of rape on which Hill had been convicted at the end of the prosecution’s case was “tenuous and vague”.

This was because the evidence for this ‘specimen charge’ - which referred to a period of time rather than a specific occasion - had been a series of SnapChat messages between Hill, the complainant and her family, he said.

During the trial, the Crown had argued that these messages proved that Hill had raped the complainant on a number of occasions but Advocate Boothman said before the Court of Appeal that, when taking the witness stand during the trial, she had only specifically referred to two occasions of non-consensual sex linked to specific dates.

However, he said, these two occasions had formed the basis of separate charges, for which the jury had found Hill not guilty. 

Another ground of appeal was that the Bailiff, who had presided over the trial, should have allowed the jury to consider the issue of consent when it found Hill guilty of grave and criminal assault.

Hill had been convicted of this charge for placing his hands on the complainant’s throat on one occasion and choking her until she passed out.

However, Advocate Boothman argued that the jury had been misdirected into being told they could not consider the defence’s argument that the complainant had consented to Hill placing his hands around her neck.

While UK law did stipulate that consent could not be a defence in serious assaults, this was not the clear case in Jersey law, he said.

Finally, Advocate Boothman argued that the jury had been pressured into reaching a majority verdict late on a Friday afternoon, and should have been told that it could reconvene on the Monday morning should it be unable to make a decision.

These arguments were rejected by the Crown at the appeal, represented by Advocate Simon Thomas, who said it was “entirely appropriate” that a victim of assault should not be permitted to consent to anything which could cause substantial risk or injury to them.

He also said that the SnapChat exchanges indicated that Hill had raped the woman a number of times and not just on the two occasions that formed the counts on which the jury had found Hill not guilty. 

In one message, Hill had said “I was a rapist and I did abuse you” before apologising to the woman, Advocate Thomas said. 

The lawyer also denied that the trial judge had pressured the jury into reaching a verdict for the end of the week. 

Their relatively quick decision after being given the option of returning a majority - as opposed to unanimous - verdict, was evidence that they had been ready to make a decision, he said.

James McNeill QC was presiding over the Court of Appeal, sitting with Lord Anderson of Ipswich and Sir William Bailhache. The Court will publish its decision in the coming days.

Hill is due to be sentenced for his September convictions in March.

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