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Man cleared of strangle attack on woman

Man cleared of strangle attack on woman

Thursday 28 October 2021

Man cleared of strangle attack on woman

Thursday 28 October 2021

A jury has cleared a 42-year-old man of grave and criminal assault after a four-day Royal Court trial.

Scott Robert Harben had denied hitting a woman with a can of cider, pouring the contents over her, and then grabbing her by the neck while he “saw red” at a St. Brelade flat on 27 February.

The alleged victim claimed she had been left fearing for her life, while Mr Harben had argued during the trial that he was the victim.

This afternoon, he was found not guilty of committing a serious assault.

After returning its unanimous verdict following just over four hours of deliberation, the jury was then asked to reach a majority verdict on the less serious charge of common assault.

In order to do this, at least 10 of the 12 jurors would have needed to agree. They could not, so the jury was discharged.

This also meant that Mr Harben was discharged from proceedings, and he left the Royal Court a free man, after spending a number of months in custody on remand.

Taking the stand earlier in the trial, Mr Harben had argued that rather than assaulting the woman, he had been attacked by her on several occasions.

On 27 February this year - the incident that the jury judged upon - it had been alleged by the woman, who had given evidence earlier in the trial, that Mr Harben had poured cider on her and then tried to strangle her while intoxicated.

Mr Harben said this wasn’t true. Instead, he claimed the woman had “flown at him” after he called her a “heathen” for crushing empty cans of cider, which she was “hammering down”, and eating crisps with her mouth open. 

“She grabbed my shirt by the shoulders, trying to slap me and pulling at me,” he told the court.

“I grabbed her by the v-neck of her dress; her arms were flailing everywhere.

“She was trying to slap me, scratch me and claw at me. By this time it was an aggressive attack.”

The jury heard details of several other incidents, dating back to 2012, when the prosecution alleged that Mr Harben had physically and verbally attacked the woman.

However, Mr Harben denied that he had ever assaulted the woman and any physical act against her had been in self-defence after she had become abusive after drinking.

“Her sober and her drunk were two completely different people,” he told the court.

The woman had said that on one occasion Mr Harben had brandished two knives, but he said this was a “complete fabrication”.

On another occasion, when the woman alleged that Mr Harben slammed a door into her several times, the defendant said that she had admitted to him afterwards that she had made that up.

The trial was presided over by Commissioner Julian Clyde-Smith, who told the jury before they retired that it was the prosecution’s job to prove that Mr Harben was guilty, and not his job to prove he was innocent.

He added that they had to be sure of his guilt to reach that verdict. If they weren’t sure, they should return a not-guilty verdict.

After summarising the woman’s evidence, he then outlined Mr Harben’s evidence, which he said “painted a completely different picture”.

“It is entirely a matter for you to assess his credibility,” he said.

The prosecution was led by Crown Advocate Simon Thomas, while Mr Harben was defended by Advocate Adam Harrison.

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