As the 2nd wife of my husband for the last 17 years, I have witnessed a kind, thoughtful, hardworking and incredibly generous man, stripped of his dignity, confidence and happiness in the last 2 years, not least to say his life savings. A situation, in hindsight, we were both powerless to prevent from happening.
My husband was falsely accused by one woman of historic sexual assault, some of the acts she alleged supposedly occurring over 40 years ago. A man who should now be looking forward to retiring with a bit of comfort after working tirelessly all his life to support his family, is now faced with 10 years in prison after being wrongly convicted.
You may ask “Why were we powerless to prevent this from happening?” Initially we both said to just tell the truth as he knew he hadn't done anything. I now realise that in historic cases there is no evidence. I personally can’t remember what I was doing this time last year, let alone over 40 years ago and this demonstrates how finding actual evidence from this length of time ago is extremely difficult. In all of these cases it is one persons word against another. Where we believed that just being honest and open, the truth would out, that is not the case in these situations. My husband was guilty until he could prove his innocence and how do you prove your innocence from 40 years ago?
The police were zealously pushing for a prosecution and my husband, who had previously never been in a police station, not even to report a crime, was thrust into a situation where he believed being helpful and honest during questioning would be the best way forward, whereas actually the police had no interest in his version of events and his honest open response during several interview sessions were actually his downfall.
The woman couldn’t 'remember' when most of the ‘acts’ took place and instead the counts charged were during, in some cases, at a non specific time in a 2 year period. My husband confirming during interview where he was working or living at a certain period, we now realise, was made to fit to the account that she gave. No investigation was done by the police in as far as speaking to any persons who were involved with my husband during this period and instead it was put forward to the CPS with only her allegations and her family's witness statements confirming she told them it happened around 30 years after the alleged period.
Even during the trial, we believed that as there was no evidence, in that nobody witnessed any event she accused him of and he had witnesses that testified that her memory of certain rooms, places or detail was not as she described, we continued to believe that the truth, as he knew it was, would be believed.
What we were powerless to prevent from happening was the response of the jury. We never considered the current post-Saville climate and the impact this would have on the proceedings. My husband who sat in a glass cage with a guard, whilst she sat being comforted in the public gallery, added to the impression that he was guilty until able to prove he was innocent. We were always led to believe that English justice meant you were innocent until proven guilty, but how wrong could we have been.
Her detail was contradicted by her own witnesses and even this didn’t appear to undermine her Oscar winning performance on the stand. Being familiar with appearing in court and the legal system and no doubt focused on the winning compensation post, she delivered a performance which obviously convinced the jury and they seemingly forgot or didn’t hear the inconsistencies with her own police interview or her other witnesses.
Our barrister commented that my husband may have ‘professed too much’ during his turn on the stand, forgetting that he was just repeating what he had told the police, he was just expressing why he couldn’t have done it or wouldn’t have done it.
Even at the end of the trial proceedings, we still believed we would be home that evening, able to put the last nearly 2 years behind us but how wrong were we? As the deliberations entered the end of the 3rd day, we started to realise that where we had been convinced that honesty was the best policy, was not going to be the case.
As the verdict was read, the world stopped as I looked at the disbelieving face of a broken man in the glass cage and my world collapsed as I witnessed him being taken down. As I sat there asking what the hell just happened, the legal team started collecting their papers up as if ‘well another day done’ and the court started to clear.
The barristers comments afterwards that ‘if it's any consolation I believed he was innocent’ really didn’t lessen the pain that continues to resonate every day. Really what the hell did just happen?! A terrible miscarriage of justice, which in the current climate we were both powerless to prevent.
I strongly believe my husband was viewed by the police, CPS and jury as guilty until he could prove his innocence. Where he was able to prove his innocence, he was acquitted, however where the only available evidence was recollections of memory or one persons word against another, from decades ago, the strength of the portrayal of the ‘victim’ tipped the scale towards convicting him.