What makes these charges important? And how can the CPS make a charge of witness intimidation stick, when the case it pertains to was dismissed?
Here are the basics:
Last fall, Neelu was acquitted of her original charges of ‘vexing a priest’ and engaging in riotous behaviour.
The CPS case fell apart at least in part because two witnesses who’d been slotted to appear, failed to attend court. According to the Ham&High report,
The court heard how two witnesses due to give evidence were not present, with one withdrawing her statement because she was allegedly scared of repercussions. The other witness was abroad.
We all know that anyone who expresses their belief that RD’s children were tortured into alleging that their entire school and surrounding community were involved in a ‘death cult’ is instantly susceptible to attack by the Hoaxtead promoters.
Death threats, vandalism, stalking, poison pen letters to friends, family, and work colleagues—Hoaxteaders have done them all. For a full year, they’ve created an atmosphere of fear amongst an entire community, so it’s not surprising that anyone who might think of testifying against one of them in court would be scared of repercussions.
Witness intimidation, however, amplifies that very understandable fear a hundred-fold.
What is witness intimidation?
Simply put, witness intimidation takes place when someone who’s been accused of a crime makes a threat, direct or implied, against either the victim of that crime or a witness to it. It’s a tactic most often employed by gangs and organised crime, to ensure that their criminal activities go unimpeded. It’s also common in domestic violence situations, where an abusing spouse might threaten the victim that if they testify in court, dire consequences could ensue.
According to the CPS website, witness intimidation is relatively rare.
But when it does occur, it represents a threat to the entire British legal system. If witnesses cannot be assured of their safety when they testify in court, the entire system is placed in jeopardy. This is why it’s critical to ensure that witnesses are not identified publicly. However, the right of the witness to remain anonymous conflicts with the right of the accused to face his/her accuser in open court. Therefore, those who are accused of crimes must be informed of the identities of those who will testify against them.
This is why people who’ve been accused receive strict instructions not to contact their accusers or any potential witnesses…and for the most part, that is sufficient to keep the system working well.
It’s probably not too surprising, though, that the era of social media has created new avenues for witness intimidation—and as law enforcement agencies scramble to keep up with the implications of new technologies, certain people will take advantage of the internet’s slippery nature to circumvent the laws around intimidating witnesses.
That’s where Neelu and Sabine come in.
Last spring, following one of her many arrests (forgive us, but we kind of lost count after a while), Neelu was given a court bundle that included her bail conditions, as well as the witness statements of six people who’d been present during her harassment of parishioners and clergy at Christ Church.
One of the conditions of her bail was that this material was to remain strictly confidential.
So of course, within days the entire kit and kaboodle wound up being published on one of Sabine’s many blogs, where it’s remained freely available to any Hoaxteader who might feel like kidnapping a child or tossing a rock through a window.
The sad fact is that if the original witnesses had felt able to testify, and Neelu had been convicted of ‘vexing a priest’ and riotous behaviour at the church, she’d have likely received a light rap on the knuckles, and that would have been the end of it.
As it is, though, it looks very much as though she and Sabine conspired to put this material up on Sabine’s blog, which means that while the original charge came to nothing, the much more serious charge of witness intimidation may very well prove her (and Sabine’s) undoing.
As we noted yesterday, Sabine is now being required to enter a plea in Crown court on 7 March. This most likely means that the case has been bumped upstairs so that if she’s found guilty, a longer sentence may be imposed. We have heard nothing yet of Neelu’s case being moved to the Crown court, but if it does, it will signal that the CPS means business this time.
Witness intimidation is no joke, and we doubt that a jury of 12 normal people who haven’t been inducted into the Hoaxtead cult will see it as a trivial matter. Stay tuned….