First conviction for psychological wounding in NI

There is very little detail about this case, but it appears quite extraordinary on the basis of the facts available. A former police officer who harrassed a mother into looking at photographs of her dead son after he hanged himself has been jailed for three years. It appears that Martin Kift acted in a very inappropriate manner with a woman whose son committed suicide, and had to endure some fairly appalling sounding harrassment from the former officer. Seems he was a serving Policeman at the time of the offences, as it is being reported that he resigned before disciplinary procedures against him could be started. The victim is not being named for legal reasons, but has said she is happy with the jail term handed down to Kift.

Hard to imagine how difficult it must have been for this woman to not only experience such a traumatic event as the suicide of her son, and then be subjected to this kind of treatment. I’ve done some searching and although this is cited as the first conviction of psychological wounding in NI, I cant find any references to other cases in the UK. If anyone has further information, it would be interesting to see how common this might be elsewhere.

  • harpo

    I was just about to say that 3 years seemed to be a hefty sentence for psychological wounding compared to other crimes, but then I read the full BBC story. It includes this:

    ‘Kift was also convicted of nine counts of indecently assaulting the woman and inflicting grievous bodily harm.’

    I’d say most of the 3 years would be the assaults mentioned, and not for the psychological wounding. Your summary gives the impression that it was all about the psychological wounding.

  • Saw this on the news- he’s clearly a sick b*****d. Forget about three years- he should be locked in a padded cell and some top psychologists brought in to try and find out why he put this poor woman through hell.

  • Miss Fitz

    The conviction was the First relating to psychological wounding Harpo, but of course the link is there for anyone to read further and assess the available facts of the case in its entirety.

    Precisely why the 3 year term was given, and whether it was for the accumulation of injury as opposed to solely the psychological wounding, I cannot ascertain from the facts available. But, I agree that the sentence seems fair once the facts that are in the public domain are known.

  • joeCanuck

    How bizzare.
    Poor woman.

  • harpo

    ‘But, I agree that the sentence seems fair once the facts that are in the public domain are known.’

    Miss Fitz:

    I didn’t make any claim that the overall sentence was fair.

    I’d say 3 years is pretty light when it emerges that there were 9 counts of indecent assault and GBH. Light, but not surprising these days.

  • Miss Fitz

    Harpo
    While being pedantic may seem admirable, I think I am going to tease this out to its logical conclusion with you here.

    Your first point in your response to my thread was:
    “3 years seemed to be a hefty sentence”

    I had taken the trouble to write in the post that:
    “Martin Kift acted in a very inappropriate manner with a woman whose son committed suicide, and had to endure some fairly appalling sounding harrassment from the former officer.”

    This was an enticement to readers to get a flavour from the post and go to the linked article, where they could see the entire story.

    Indeed you appear to concur with this basic principle when you write:

    “but then I read the full BBC story”

    So hooray for you. The point of the link is that you read the full story, and not make comments or preseumptions on the basis of a post.

    You now go on to say the sentence was light.

    I cannot comment on this without the full facts, but I think that instead of playing the poster we look at the post.

  • bertie

    Missfitz,

    I hate to disagree with you, as I find myself often in your corner but to me a link is where you go if you want to dig deeper, but the post that links it should make the main point on it’s own.

    But bak to the topic. God knows that this woman has sufferened enough to satisfy all but the worst sadists.

  • McGrath

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/5056902.stm

    I didn’t fall for Madam Fitz trap! I knew there had to be more to the story. (She will probably make me eat my words, I fear her.)

    Regardless, its truly a bizarre story.

    I wonder if there was more to the relationship between them for him to make such a total arse out of himself.

    Maybe he was getting a little taste and momma took the cookie jar away? Poor guy started think with the wrong head? Still no excuse.

  • Miss Fitz

    I dont know what language you guys want me to post in. I can try Ulster Scots or Irish, but for goodness sake! What was wrong with the post.

    I’m not supposed to get into a wrangle in comments, but I am fed up with either a real or imagined set of problems with what I post.

    I said, in the clearest imaginable terms that this was:

    1. Unique
    2. Little available detail
    3. He was inappropriate
    4. She endured “fairly appalling sounding harrassment”

    I feel that I acknowledged that there were deeper levels of harrassment (see point 4), but I was also bringing this to the attention of anyone who may have been interested in the fact that it was a ‘first’ of its kind in terms of convictions.

    Bertie, in what way did the post not make the main point?

    I would be fascinated to know.

  • Nevin

    [i]The jury heard how Kift made numerous unwelcome phone and house calls over the course of the next year, indecently assaulting her nine times.

    It was alleged that each time, he would sit beside her with his hand on her upper, inner thigh, would make inappropriate comments about her breasts and that when he left, he would “hug and kiss” the woman.[/i]

    Miss Fitz,

    It’s unfortunate that the victim appears unable to have requested disciplinary proceedings sooner. Perhaps there are other women who’ve been subjected to similar mistreatment by this police officer.

  • Pete Baker

    Miss Fitz

    You are quite correct. A link is there to provide further details on the topic of the post.. for those who are interested.. the post is, usually, where to highlight a particular area of interestto the blogger – in the story.

    If anyone can’t be bothered to read the link to find the other details.. then that’s their problem.

  • Miss Fitz

    Without knowing the ins and outs Nevin, I guess that’s what is potentially so horrific about a case like this. Preying on someone who is at the most vulnerable point of their lives is a real abuse of power.

    And if you look at the anatomy of bullying, you will see that the victim becomes powerless through fear and intimidation to confront or report the abuser.

    Couple that vulnerability post-suicide with the inability to act within the framework of an agressive and manipulative power figure, and it doesnt surprise me that no reports were issued.

  • Wat the Tyler

    Times have changed since the good old days…imagine pretending to throw someone out of a helicopter nowadays! LOL

  • Rory

    I fail to understand how a criminal charge of “psychological wounding” could be substantiated in a cort of law. I can see how a jury might well see and evaluate the psychological damage to a victim of a (tangible) crime who was giving evidence against the accused and that the jury would bear that in mind in their deliberations (regardless of any judge’s admonishment not to) and I can aprreciate a judge might well mention the mental and emotional trauma suffered by a victim in the preamble to the delivery of sentence and to weight the sentence accordingly. But how in the hell such damage can be tested in law is beyond my powers of reasoning and would make for weak and very dangerous law in my opinion. I cannot imagine such a charge being substantiated on its own and would be most concerned were it to be and the congratulatory welcome given by Miss Fitz to the idea that this might be possible troubles me. The charge would depend solely on subjective judgement that could not be independently tested and opens the way for very dangerous legislation indeed.

    Perhaps that is the hidden agenda behind the voting mania on reality television besed entirely on subjective and emotional whim that so dominates mass culture today.

  • Miss Fitz

    Rory
    I posted this story to encourage the kind of comments you have sensibly raised. I too was surprised by this, indeed I called it ‘extraordinary’. I felt that there was room to debate the nature of a charge such as ‘psychological wounding’

    This is the reason I ended with these comments:

    ‘I’ve done some searching and although this is cited as the first conviction of psychological wounding in NI, I cant find any references to other cases in the UK. If anyone has further information, it would be interesting to see how common this might be elsewhere.’

    Now, just like the others, you have ascribed to me an emotive subjectification on this topic that I fail to see.

    I am asking you please, to let me know how you extrapolate that I was ‘congratulatory’ in my post. I would have said I was totally neutral, indeed when a comment was made that the sentence was light, I responded that I couldnt comment.

    I’m interested, although getting less so as these unusbstantiated comments are getting quite boring and may soon be ignored completely. If you dont want to restrain your comments to the substantive element of the post, then you are not playing by the Slugger rule book.

  • Animus

    Remember that post on misogyny in the blogging world the other day? Hmmmm.

    Miss Fitz

    There is such a thing as emotional violence, and it has been used as mitigation in murder cases, particularly for women who have been abused by their partners. But I wonder why harassment wouldn’t cover it in this case? It is perhaps because emotional abuse isn’t legislated?

    Nevin

    Given the circumstances, it seems somewhat amazing the woman involved felt able to bring a case at all. I will be congratulatory – good on her! Having a child commit suicide is a tragedy in itself, that someone in such a position of power could take advantage in such circumstances is a travesty.

  • Nevin

    “The jury also heard that when Kift’s behaviour came to light in August 2003,”

    Miss Fitz,

    Perhaps a friend or relative intervened on the victim’s behalf or maybe she had the strength to act on her own. Was Kift visiting while on duty? If so, perhaps a superior office queried his activities.

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    ‘A former police officer who harrassed a mother into looking at photographs of her dead son after he hanged himself has been jailed for three years.’

    Was he a ‘former police officer’ at the time the offences were committed or was he a serving police officer?

  • Nevin

    Pat,

    It seems he was a serving officer:

    “Over the next few months, he harrassed her until she agreed to look at the death scene photographs.

    Kift, of Middleton Park, Islandmagee, also gave her a copy of the post-mortem examination report.

    He resigned from the police before disciplinary measures could be taken against him.”

  • Yokel

    How can I put this..what a pathetic weak little excuse for man..go rot ya shite. Jail kicking material

  • joeCanuck

    Enough bullshit already.

    The judge saw fit to jail him for 3 years.
    Good enough for me.

  • Rory

    Miss Fitz, I fear that by using the term ‘celebratory’ to describe your efforts in drawing our attention to this link was wrong. I am afraid it was an over-enthusiastic case of ‘shoot the messanger’. I apologise unreservably.

    My apology needs be all the more contrite because I believe that we owe you, as ‘the messanger’, a debt of gratitude in bringing this to our attention as I, like you, feel that it does indeed merit debate.

    In order to continue that debate may I set out my current thinking on the matter as reported:

    This case is particularly odious and the convicted man seems a most vile human being and I have no doubt in my mind on available evidence that he but did indeed inflict great harmful emotional damage to his victim. I presume that this was taken into account, by virtue of the victim’s testimony and demeanour and perhaps by professional testimony from others who had examined the victim and I suspect (and trust) that the judge reflected our condemnation of such injury in his sentence.

    There is already scope to sue for such damage in civil law. Divorces are often granted on grounds of emotional damage and industrial tribunals take great account of such when deciding cases before them. But it has to be remembered that there is not a burden of burden of proof on the plaintiff in civil law as there is on the prosecution in criminal law. And this burden is absolutely necessary in a criminal justice systems that operates through advocacy. It is not so acute a restriction under Napoleonic systems of investigating magistrates.

    I make no arguments here for the merits or otherwise of these respective systems but only say that it is with the understanding that we make the debate with the de facto acceptance of the advocacy system as it applies to this discussion.

    Here is an illustration of the problem for me:

    I am a defence attorney and my client is charged with the psycological wounding of another. My client strenuously protests his innocence.

    My client is, in fact, innocent and his accuser is a malicious pathological liar who has an unwarranted selfish spite against my client.

    The prosecution calls the alleged victim as primary witness and under his questioning speaks movingly of the terrible psychological wound he has received from my client. I can see that the jury is impressed. How should I cross-examine?

    If I suggest to the witness that he is lying, that he has not received any psychological wound other than from his own distorted ego then, as he breaks down weeping at the terrible pain he says he still suffers, and which my questioning has only made worse, I see the jury view me as a cold=hearted monster and my client condemned by association. Yet my client is truly innocent and the alleged victim, as I have said, a pathological, manipulative liar.

    Against such a charge there can be no defence other than counter-manipulaive emotional trickery by the defence and that does not make for good law.

    It is not, however, that there are not indeed out there other human beings who are truly disturbed and malicious enough to enjoy quite consciously visting great emotional pain on another (the ranks of business, government, law and order and the clergy -of all demoninations- would indeed be deplete without them) but it remains that such a charge in criminal law is dangerously and unprovably subjective and could prove a charter for malicious rogues to exploit rather than protecting those exploited.

    Better to let the charges reflect the clearly observable physical damage and draw the proper conclusions as to the invisible symptoms of psychological wounding, which are truly none the less real. Juries and judges do this everyday.

    It really boils down to this – a charge of psychological wounding cannot stand alone . It must be only a deemed after-effect of provable material injury. Tough, I accept, but under the advocacy system our liberty depends upon it.

    I should welcome any reflections on my thinking, not least those which point out the flaws in it.

    I have been wrong in the past. Undoubtedly I will be wrong in the future but of course my vain humanity tells me that I am always right in the present and any deflation of that myth would not be harmful.

  • joeCanuck

    Rory

    I obviously wasn’t present at this trial and don’t know the full details. But I will try to point out a major flaw in your theoretical case.
    You state that the “primary” witness was the accuser. You make no mention of any other witnesses.
    Now I have never served on a jury (called twice) but I consider myself to be a “reasonable” person.
    I would never convict in any case where there were no independent witnesses and it was just a matter of “she said, he said”. Too dangerous, no matter how much the accuser cried on the stand.