Thursday, 2 June 2016
Harassment Trial: Judgement Day
I had been on edge for the last week. There is nothing worse that waiting for exams results, but this was ten times worse.
The verdict was going to be handed down by District Judge Tan Ikram at 10am.
The charge of harassment was actually relatively minor, which is why the case has been heard by a district judge and not a jury. The worst that could happen would be six months in prison, or more realistically community service.
But if found guilty the press would have a field day. They would destroy me. I dreaded the thought of the words Guilty being printed in large letters next to my name, all over Google. Especially that I was the victim of a false rape accusation. There wold be terribly confusion. "Guilty of rape?" people would probably ask themselves, confusing the harassment allegations with the rape allegations.
The day before I had spoken to a friend in PR on what to do if it was a guilty verdict. He said wear a plain blue tie and a suit. Blue is a fairly neutral colour. If the press ask you anything just say "All I ever wanted was to clear my name".
I was ready for the worst. The verdict rested on whether I had been objectively "reasonable". If the judge could understand what had happened he would rule that i had been reasonable and find in my favour. But I was up against the father of a dead girl. Mr de Freitas had been in floods of tears throughout the trial.
I got in a taxi and headed towards Westminster Magistrates Court. No photographers were outside which was good. I went through security and up to the first floor. The verdict was going to be read out in Court Room One, the biggest room.
I met my lawyer Colin and he started to speak to the prosecutor William Emlyn Jones.
Outside the court room was David de Freitas, his niece Lizzie Noel waiting to go in, as well as well as a few other supporters of the family.
There were also members of the press.
We go into the court room. Sitting in front of me is my solicitor Collin and just to his right is the prosecutor William Emlyn-Jones.
The public gallery is right at the back of the court room. Journalists are on the ready with their note pads resting on their knees. Meanwhile I can feel Mr de Freitas starting at me.
The judge enters the room and takes his position. We all rise and sit back down. There is silence and the judge starts the formalities. I'm expecting him to quickly deliver his verdict, but he doesn't.
The judge has written a lengthy judgement and he's going to read through all of it and only at the very end will he give his verdict.
The next 15 minutes is going to be torture.
I can almost hear the ticking of the clock opposite. It's now 10 18 a.m. I'm looking at the second hand and clenching every muscle of my body preparing for the worst.
I haven't slept too well in the last week. Not knowing the result of something is the worst thing. I'm wide awake now and I keep thinking to myself how did I get here?
How did I get into the situation? It feels so surreal. It feels like the beginning of a novel where you wake up in a strange place and wonder how you got there. The clock in front of me keeps ticking. Tick, tock.
David de Freitas keeps staring at me, it's like he's burning a hole through my head. He wants a guilty verdict so badly, but I am innocent. I am in fact the victim in this entire situation.
And then all of a sudden the Judge says: "I find the defendant not guilty".
And that's it. I can't believe it.
I have agreed with my lawyers (and best friend who is supporting me) that no matter what the outcome we shall show no emotion in front of the press.
A minute later I reconvened with my lawyers and best friend in a briefing room round the side of the court room. We close the door. We are all smiling. I can not believe it. They are congratulating me. It was the best feeling i the world. I make a few phone calls to close friends and family to tell them the good news.
I am cleared!
"We're going to Clarridges" says my best friend, "I'm going to buy you champagne, we're going to celebrate!".
It was not even 11am and yet we were drinking Champagne at the bar at Clarridges.
I still couldn't believe it.
We were still at Claridges and hadn't even got through the first bottle when the news started to be published online. "Cleared" it said in big letters next to my name. People started to call and congratulate me.
Full Judgement can be read here.