A former High Court judge’s widow cleared of historical sex abuse has called for those accused to be granted anonymity until charged. Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour, Lady Lavinia Nourse described the trauma of her two-week trial saying that she had ‘never been so frightened, lonely, [and] utterly miserable’ (as reported by the BBC here).
‘There was a very high chance that if I was found guilty that I would go to jail and I just find it really frightening that people can tell lies that actually can send an innocent person to prison,’ she told presented Emma Barnett. Lady Lavinia, who had been married to Sir Martin Nourse, was accused of abuse by a man known to her two months after her 85-year-old husband died in 2017. She was cleared of 17 counts of sexually abusing a boy under 12.
She made the case for ‘anonymity up to the point of charge’. ‘Everyone remains anonymous, that in itself would be a step forward,’ she said. ‘I think it’s less likely that in the immediate future, we will get anonymity after being charged. But I would like to ask the question, why can the complainant then not be revealed after the case?’
Lady Lavinia spoke about having to face her accuser face-to-face after he opted not to give evidence from behind a screen. ‘It was horrendous and because it was a nightingale court, he was as close to me as you are now,’ she said to Barnett. ‘To have to listen to a day and half to all the ghastly things that were said about me… well, I don’t have to say otherwise I would breakdown completely.’
Lady Lavinia said she felt the case would not have got to court if she ‘hadn’t had such a high profile husband’ which was, the BBC report noted, denied by the Crown Prosecution Service.