After Anthony Daniel McIver was cleared of any criminal responsibility in the bashing of a pregnant woman, he stood up in court and declared: “The justice system works”.
When the judge-alone trial began in June, the ACT Supreme Court heard he was accused of standing by while the woman was allegedly bashed by 38-year-old Julieann Frances Williams in September 2020.
That month, the woman had posted on social media that she and her boyfriend, who was Ms Williams’ ex-partner, were expecting a baby.
The next day she was at home on her porch when a black car pulled up and three people got out; first, someone alleged to be Ms Williams with an unnamed person, followed by 32-year-old McIver.
Ms Williams allegedly began punching the woman, who was 17 weeks pregnant, while the unnamed person tore out a chunk of her hair as the woman tried to protect her stomach with her hands.
The woman said she was told the assault would be over if she put her hands up. She believed her assailants wanted to cause her to miscarry.
The woman, who said she ended up in a foetal position on the floor, told the court the assault ended after McIver, whom she did not know at the time, yelled out, “enough now”.
Police asked what was going through her mind when it was taking place.
“She’s trying to get to my stomach,” she said. “That’s my child, that’s my baby.”
Ms Williams pleaded not guilty to aggravated burglary and assault, while McIver pleaded not guilty to being knowingly concerned to the charges.
When the trial resumed on Wednesday (8 September), the court heard Ms Williams’ trial would be adjourned to explore a defence of mental impairment.
Prosecutor Elizabeth Wren said it seemed there was no longer a factual dispute in her case.
Justice Michael Elkaim said the defendants’ cases would be separated, adjourning Ms Williams’ case to October and continuing with McIver’s trial that day.
Ms Wren said closed-circuit television footage (CCTV) screened to the court, taken by a neighbour’s camera, showed McIver walking up the steps to the woman’s front door while the woman was attacked.
She alleged he blocked the doorway so she couldn’t escape and had “done nothing to assist”.
Ms Wren conceded he was “more passive” than the other two but alleged he still went to the woman’s house not knowing her and included himself when he could have chosen not to be involved.
But McIver’s Legal Aid lawyer Dr Jan de Bruin said the CCTV showed that after two women got out of the car and walked towards the door, his client was slower in exiting the vehicle, then when he did so, he looked down to the ground.
“He’s in fact not paying any attention as to what’s happening at the front door,” he said, to which Justice Elkaim remarked, “there’s a lot of screaming going on”.
Dr de Bruin said McIver then stopped on the lawn to smoke a cigarette, which was not the actions of someone prepared for a violent assault.
He also said once McIver became aware of the attack, he tried to end it by saying “enough” and walked away.
“That’s all he could have done,” Dr de Bruin said.
On Thursday (9 September), Justice Elkaim found McIver not guilty of both his charges.
He said the only issue that had to be decided was whether or not McIver had been knowingly concerned in the offences committed on the woman.
“There is nothing to suggest that until matters got out of hand at the complainant’s residence that Mr McIver had any idea of what was to occur,” he said.
“The Crown must satisfy me beyond reasonable doubt that Mr McIver was knowingly concerned or a party to the commission of the offence.
“I think such a conclusion, while open, is only open on a somewhat speculative basis.”
After the judge left the courtroom, McIver stood up and told Dr de Bruin that “the justice system works”.
Ms Williams’ bail had been continued. Her case will be heard again in court on 19 October.