TRIGGER WARNING: This post deals with rape and domestic violence, and may be triggering for some readers.
A woman who was acquitted of attempting to murder her abusive husband on the grounds of self-defence is now suing the state of New South Wales for malicious prosecution.
In what has been described as one of the worst cases of domestic violence in Australia, Catherine Smith was bashed, raped, tortured and stalked by her husband, Kevin Smith, over a 30-year period.
In an exclusive interview with the ABC, Ms Smith said she should never have been charged and put on trial.
Ms Smith, who lives in hiding, said police and prosecutors knew of her husband’s extensive history of violence and that she had acted in defence of herself and her children.
Her barrister, David Baran, said at the time of her arrest it should have been obvious to police that she was suffering from battered wife syndrome.
He said police and prosecutors conducted themselves with “malice” and a “wilful shutting of the eyes” to the obvious flaws in the case.
“This was a woman who was on the brink, and even if it meant having to go and be in jail for the rest of her life, at least [Kevin Smith] would be gone and her children would be spared,” Mr Baran said.
Over the course of their 30-year marriage, the mother of six was choked with an electrical cord, shot at with a .22 rifle, tortured with a cattle prod and threatened with a burning fire poker, knives and guns.
Ms Smith called the police for help 18 times but her husband was never charged.
‘I slept with one eye open’
She told the ABC being married to Smith was like being in a prison camp.
“The abuse was intermittent and you’d just never know when it was going to happen or why,” she said.
“I used to say I slept with one eye open. I hardly ever slept. Every little tiny sound you’d just jump.
“The police did a risk assessment and they weren’t allowed to come to my house or to our aid unless there was four police officers present and it was in daylight hours because they felt he was too volatile for their safety, and yet they left us in it.
“It’s hard to fathom, isn’t it?”