In Friday’s bulk email to her followers, Belinda noted that when Sabine and Neelu head to court to face charges of witness intimidation, their defence strategy will be to prove that they published six witness statements on a blog read by hundreds of people because they are malicious, irresponsible, and stupid, but not because they intended to intimidate anyone.
According to this blog from Quentin Hunt, a specialist in criminal and regulatory law, this is indeed a likely strategy, which if handled dexterously, could potentially result in a verdict of ‘not guilty’.
Here’s Mr Hunt’s take on the matter (bold script ours):
The law in relation to witness intimidation is set out in s51(1) of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. It states that a person commits an offence if he ‘does an act which intimidates, and is intended to intimidate another person and he does the act knowing or believing that the victim is assisting in the investigation of an offence or is a witness or potential witness or a juror or potential juror in proceedings for an offence and he does it intending thereby to cause the investigation or the course of justice to be obstructed, perverted or interfered with.’
The person complaining against the defendant must actually be intimidated, the offence cannot be committed if they were not (R v N(Z) 2013)- there is no judicial definition of intimidation but the dictionary definition is ‘to frighten or threaten someone, usually in order to persuade that person to do something that you want them to do’.…
Subsection 5 states that the intention and motive required need not be the only or the predominating intention or motive with which the act is done or threatened. So if a subsidiary benefit of the intimidation is their not giving evidence (for example) but the main benefit or motive is something else then the offence is still made out.
In other words, Neelu and Sabine committed the offence if:
- They published the witness statements, thus intimidating, and intending to intimidate, the six witnesses;
- They knew that the six witnesses would be testifying against Neelu for her role in the disturbance at Christ Church;
- They did this intending to cause the course of justice to be obstructed, perverted, or interfered with.
We think it’s fair to say that all six witnesses were indeed intimidated. We know this because when Neelu’s trial was finally held, she walked free since none of the witnesses would agree to testify against her.
According to Mr Hunt,
Subsection 7 states that if the relevant act is proved with the requisite knowledge or belief, then the defendant will be presumed, unless the contrary is proved, to have done the act with the intention required by the Act. This of course imposes a reverse legal burden on the defendant. So the defendant must prove this defence on the balance of probabilities- so that is more likely than not, this is a lower burden than that imposed upon the defendant to prove the rest of the offence- they have the burden of making the jury sure or in layman’s terms beyond reasonable doubt.
We’ve stated many times that we’re not lawyers, and our reading of this is that if it can be proved that Neelu and Sabine conspired to publish the witness statements ‘with the requisite knowledge or belief’ (that the victims would be called to testify), then they will be presumed to have committed the crime…unless they can prove that they committed the act without intending its consequences.
Were the statements intended to intimidate?
By the time Sabine published the witness statements, in mid-summer, the internet had been flooded with material relating to the Hampstead hoax. Emotions were running high, and the orchestrated campaign against the people of Hampstead was well under way.
We would suggest that it could not have been possible for Sabine and Neelu to be unaware of the impact that this hoax had already had on the parents, children, teachers, clergy, and business people of Hampstead. These people’s very real and justifiable fear—of vigilante action, of poison pen letters to friends, family, and workplaces, of repercussions upon their children—was well known.
Death threats abounded, as anyone who attempted to speak up against the hoax was targetted and singled out by the baying mob online.
And the elderly priest at the church had already been chased by Neelu and other angry demonstrators:
As well, the woman and child living at the church cottage had been stalked, filmed, and threatened by the creepy Code 2222; and all of the six witnesses had experienced the very distressing assault on their place of worship, and on their right to worship in peace.
Given all this, we would find it hard to believe that Sabine and Neelu could be unaware that their actions would be perceived as threatening.
In fact, anyone who cares to may still go to one of Sabine’s blogs (which we’re not naming or linking to) and read the witness statements in full. Despite the charges she faces, and knowing that the post itself is both illegal and damaging to those named, Sabine has not taken them down, nor shown any sign of remorse or shame at having posted them in the first place.
Were the statements intended to pervert the course of justice?
As for whether Sabine and Neelu published the statements with the intent of perverting, obstructing, or interfering with the course of justice, we must ask: what was the purpose of publishing them at all?
In fact, they were published as one part of a post that contained all of Neelu’s bail terms.
The purpose certainly seemed to be to demonstrate the unreasonableness of those bail terms, and to stir up public anger about her ‘unfair’ arrest. The witness statements were presented in a mocking, sneering way, as evidence that the so-called ‘cult’ was making up stories about poor, hard-done-by Neelu.
All along, Sabine has been very forthright about her intention to incite public rage, as part of her campaign against those she sees as ‘cult members’ and ‘child abusers’. Publishing the witness statements was just one aspect of her relentless campaign.
So, while she and Neelu might attempt to evade the issue by claiming lack of intent, we hope the judge throws the book at them.
Their callous, cruel, and very intentional act deserves no less.