27 July 2022

'Feels like I'm not there': woman cleared of bashing pregnant mother due to mental impairment

| Albert McKnight
ACT Law Courts

Julieann Frances Williams has been cleared over the assault of a pregnant woman. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

A woman has been cleared of responsibility over the assault of her ex-partner’s girlfriend who was 17 weeks pregnant at the time. She has been found not guilty by reason of mental impairment.

When a psychiatrist asked Julieann Frances Williams what she remembered about the incident, she gave several statements suggesting she had been experiencing dissociation.

“Only pieces … it just happened … I snapped … I heard screams… feels like I’m not there, standing outside, looking … feeling empty,” Williams said.

Williams was 38 when she and her co-accused, 32-year-old Anthony Daniel McIver, faced an ACT Supreme Court judge-alone trial last June to fight their charges.

At the start of the trial, the court heard that the day before the attack, the complainant had posted on social media that she and her boyfriend, who was Williams’ ex-partner, were expecting a baby.

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In September 2020, the woman was at home when Williams, McIver and another unnamed person approached her.

Williams began punching the woman while the unnamed person tore out a chunk of her hair as the woman tried to protect her stomach with her hands.

Later, while at hospital, the complainant told police her assailants wanted to cause her to miscarry.

“You could punch me 50 times in the head, but I’m not putting my arms up,” she said.

“You’re not hurting my baby.”

Last September, Justice Michael Elkaim acquitted McIver of his charges, while Williams’ trial was adjourned so she could explore a mental impairment defence.

He then announced his decision for Williams earlier this July, finding her not guilty due to mental impairment on charges of aggravated burglary and assault.

In his published judgement, he said Williams’ involvement in the events from September 2020 was no longer in issue and she conceded all of the elements of the two offences.

But clinical psychiatrist Dr Harrison said Williams was suffering from such a mental impairment at the time and did not know her conduct was wrong.

“Her mental state showed her to be dissociated and shamed by the event, an indication of some recognition of the event, and responsibility for her role in the event,” Dr Harrison said.

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She said Williams was suffering from a borderline personality disorder and opioid dependence, and when the doctor was cross-examined, she stood by her view that her patient did not have control of her actions.

The Crown Prosecution also told the court it would not oppose a verdict of not guilty due to mental impairment after hearing Dr Harrison’s evidence.

Justice Elkaim ordered Williams to submit to the jurisdiction of the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal to make a mental health or forensic mental health order.

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