This week we are covering the trial of Neelu Berry and Sabine McNeill, who face charges of conspiracy to commit witness intimidation. The following report has been pieced together from several reports we’ve received concerning today’s trial activities.
Following yesterday’s confusion about seating in the public gallery, the trial hit a further snag today, as one of the jurors had to be excused due to a personal crisis. This meant that not only would another juror have to be chosen and sworn in, but the prosecution would have to make its opening statement once more to catch everyone up.
Prior to the new juror being chosen and sworn in, HH Justice Worsley had stern words with those in the public gallery concerning any attempt to pervert the course of justice, whether by taking photographs or other recordings inside the court precinct, or by making any comments online that might prejudice the trial in any way.
We’d like to echo the judge’s sentiments here: the trial is ongoing, and people will naturally have feelings about the events in court, as well as the outcome, but we would urge our commenters to keep any speculation or potentially prejudicial comments to themselves until the trial is completed.
Prosecutor’s opening statement, v.2.0
Jurors heard a recounting of the events of 22 March, 2015, the day of the demonstration at Christ Church. They heard about the demonstrators’ harassment of the parish priest, their shouting accusations of Satanic ritual abuse at parishioners as they made their way to church, and about their attempts to enter the church against the wishes of the priest and parishioners.
The jury also heard about the fact that protestors had attempted to take photos of children attending the church nursery. They heard that the behaviour of the protestors left the parishioners concerned for their own safety.
However, Mr Attridge said, the jury should be mindful that the events of that day are not on trial here; they were simply given as background.
He walked the jury through Neelu Berry’s initial arrest, and the fact that she or her solicitor were given witness statements at that time.
On 10 April, 8 witness statements appeared online: 2 from police, and 6 from parishioners and clergy. This material, which included personal details such as names, addresses, and personal statements pertaining to the demonstration, appeared on the Whistleblower Kids blog. This blog is registered to Sabine McNeill, and contains a hyperlink to Neelu Berry’s Facebook page.
The jury heard details of Neelu’s initial arrest, including the fact that the police had to force open her front door. She was cautioned when being arrested, but she spoke over the arresting officer, claiming that she was being kidnapped, that the arrest was fraudulent, and that the police were behaving illegally.
Mr Attridge detailed the forensic evidence linking the original witness statements to those that had been published online, noting that both visual scans and secure hash algorithms were used to ensure that the 2 documents were the same. He noted that Neelu’s computers, which were seized when she was arrested, contained traces of Skype calls between Neelu and Sabine.
Mr Attridge emphasised that Sabine and Neelu had conspired to intimidate witnesses, and that the witnesses had indeed been intimidated. When witnesses heard from police that their statements had been published online, they expressed fear for themselves and their families.
Following a break for lunch, the first witness for the prosecution was sworn in, and testified from behind a screen. We’ll publish further information on this aspect of the trial at a later date, as we have no wish to prejudice the proceedings in either direction.
Court adjourned at about 3:20 p.m., and will reconvene tomorrow at 10:00 a.m., at which time we expect to hear from further witnesses for the prosecution.