Belfast Telegraph

Effects of alcohol are spelt out in hushed courtroom

By Nicola Anderson

One of the reasons people drink alcohol, a defence barrister put it to the forensic medical examiner, is to induce a feeling of "well-being".

The medic agreed. It also affects a number of "different capacities" people have, "firstly their judgement", continued the lawyer.

"It affects judgement in the sense that people do things without fully appreciating the consequences," he said.

"Correct, the risks," murmured the medic in agreement.

As Arthur Harvey QC for Blane McIlroy continued to cross-examine Dr Janet Hall, a semi-retired medical forensic medical officer present in court on the behalf of the defence, it emerged that both were in agreement that alcohol can affect short-term memory, balance - and that when you stop drinking, the alcohol level can continue to rise.

"And when the level decreases, it can lead to a change in mood where you feel down, even depressed," Mr Harvey put it to her, adding: "Judgements may begin to return - and when judgements return, there can be a feeling of regret."

"And remorse," conceded Dr Hall.

"And one feels physically ill at ease," Mr Harvey went on.

"Everything that happens on the way up, the reverse happens on the way down," he put it to her.

"More or less," Dr Hall agreed, as Mr Harvey went on to talk about the further handicap of memory loss.

"One of the effects of alcohol is that it reduces inhibitions?" he continued.

"It does," said Dr Hall.

"And can create arousal?" Again Dr Hall agreed.

"It makes us behave in ways we wouldn't normally behave," Mr Harvey said.

"Yes," she said.

"No further questions," said Mr Harvey.

Toby Hedworth QC for the prosecution then rose immediately to his feet, saying he would start where Mr Harvey had left off.

Speaking in terms of perpetrators, alcohol reduces inhibitions, he began and Dr Hall agreed that this was so.

"It creates arousal," he said and again she agreed. "It makes people do things that are ill-judged but they feel good about it," said Mr Hedworth.

"What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander," declared Mr Hedworth in tones that rang out in Courtroom 12 in which, by now, a pin could be heard to have dropped, should one have done so.

"Absolutely," Dr Hall said.

Later, Brendan Kelly QC for Paddy Jackson questioned a forensic scientist about blood staining on the underwear worn by the complainant.

"This type of garment is notorious for moving, is it not?" asked Mr Kelly, as the scientist blushed.

"I'm asking you as a scientist, I'm not asking you for your experience," he appealed to her.

Belfast Telegraph

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