10 Aug 2022

Derry man convicted of assaulting social worker during encounter at local courthouse

A 33-year-old man has been found guilty of assaulting a social worker in at the courthouse in Derry who was there to offer support to a family member. Gerard Scarlett, of Glenabbey Drive in the city, was charged with common assault and disorderly behaviour on November 3 of last year. The court heard that the complainant, a social worker, was in the foyer of Derry courthouse in a personal capacity to support a family member when she ‘encountered’ the defendant. Scarlett was known to her because of past dealings and while she was sitting with family members the defendant ‘spied’ her. The victim said she was ‘afraid’ for her safety as the defendant had previously been issued with a Police Information Notice (PIN) for harassing her in 2015. Speaking from the witness box, the injured party described how Scarlett then shouted abuse at the ‘top of his voice’. She told the court that she and other family members felt intimidated and therefore decided to move seats but the verbal abuse continued. ‘Quite frightened’, they left the building and made their way to the family proceedings court building where they were ‘followed’ by Scarlett who ‘continued to shout abuse’. Security were forced to intervene when the defendant persisted with his abuse and threatened to ‘let everyone know who she was’. The injured party believed Scarlett was going to hit her, was ‘visibly shaken and upset’ and, after further insults were directed at her the police were phoned. During cross-examination by defence solicitor Seamus Quigley, it was suggested that seeing the complainant reminded the defendant of a difficult time in his life, but in response she said it was her job to represent social services and Scarlett was ‘violent towards me personally’. Mr Quigley told the court that his client admits making comments but ‘denies shouting anything’. The defence solicitor explained that Scarlett did not follow her but instead had gone to the other building for his own business at the enquiries desk. However, the injured party said she believed Scarlett was going to ‘headbutt’ her and, based on previous incidents was, ‘in fear of my life’. Scarlett then took to the witness box to give evidence and explained that he saw the injured party in court where she gave him ‘dirty looks’ and he ‘had words’. The court heard that he left the building after the victim to visit the enquiry office and she was in front of him in the queue. During cross-examination by a Public Prosecution Service (PPS) representative, Scarlett said he felt ‘intimidated’ by the social worker and does so ‘every time’ he’s around her. He added: “I’ll express my opinion however I like, as long as it’s not intimidating.” The Public Prosecutor put it to him that he was ‘quite animated’ and ‘deliberately followed her to shout abuse’ but the defendant denied that suggestion saying he’s in court ‘three days a week’. The PPS representative said that, given their history’, the injured party would have ‘reason to fear’ the defendant. District Judge Nigel Broderick said that although there was ‘no physical contact’ the injured party believed Scarlett was ‘about to hit her’. Police evidence in the case was agreed and at interview the defendant made no comment but he did provide evidence in court. The judge said that after observing both parties give evidence the complainant had provided a ‘credible and reliable’ account but ‘the same can’t be said about the defendant’. “(Scarlett) said he felt intimidated yet he was hot on her heels going to the other court room and continued the abuse because of a grievance about her professional duties,” he added. The prosecution asked the court to consider imposing a restraining order and the case was adjourned for a pre-sentence probation report at Antrim Courthouse on July 3 where Judge Broderick is normally based.

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