The “talking part” of Sabine McNeill’s trial on four counts of stalking and 17 counts of breaching a restraining order drew to a close today, with HHJ Sally Cahill QC delivering summaries of the prosecution and defence closing speeches for the jury’s benefit.
Judge’s summation of prosecution closing speech
Judge Cahill noted that in her closing speech, Miranda Moore QC expressed anger and disbelief that anybody of Sabine’s intellect could do what she has done. Moore said that Sabine still believes the whole story is true, Judge Cahill said; worse, Moore said that Sabine still carried on with her actions even after being informed of the impacts they were having.
Judge Cahill noted Moore’s point that Sabine continued to refer to witnesses from her 2016 trial as “abusers”. Moore had also pointed out Sabine’s deliberate use of the Whistleblower Kids site to re-publish material in breach of her restraining order.
Judge Cahill reminded the jury that Sabine said she “saw herself as a publisher, with an obligation to her followers”. She said that in her closing speech, Moore asked the jury to consider the effects which Sabine’s actions would have had on any normal person.
The prosecution said that Sabine had used photos of P and Q online, and had praised researchers who invaded the privacy of the witnesses.
In addition, the defendant had “every opportunity to grasp that what she had been told by Ella Draper was all untrue”, Judge Cahill said, adding that Moore had asked, “Isn’t it obvious that the information [copied from the class list] had not come from Ella Draper’s children?”
The judge also noted Moore’s point that “the only thing that stopped Sabine was bail and prison”.
Judge Cahill said Moore had asked why Sabine had gone to Synod in February 2018, and had concluded that she was trying to use the event to advance her own campaign.
Similarly, when Sabine had called the helpline, she did not know the identity of the person she was talking to, but during that conversation she still named a person she was prohibited from discussing in relation to Satanic abuse or cannibalism.
Judge Cahill said that Moore had pointed out that it was nonsense to claim that the helpline conversation was for “pastoral care” when no mention of pastoral care was made during it.
Moore also noted that the only reason the Whistleblower Kids site was down was that its fees had not been paid, since Sabine was in prison, Judge Cahill said.
She said that Moore had urged the jury to look at the evidence as a whole, and had said that they ought not to take each event out and look at it on its own. Rather, the evidence cannot be divorced from its context.
Judge’s summation of defence closing speech
Summing up Tana Adkin QC’s closing speech for the defence, Judge Cahill said that by contrast, Adkin had asked the jury to examine each piece of evidence individually.
Adkin, she said, had made the point that if the parents already knew that distressing material was online, “how could it cause them alarm?”
Judge Cahill said that Adkin had emphasised that Sabine’s motivation was to get Ella Draper’s children returned to her, not to harass the parents.
Judge Cahill said that in Adkin’s view, the jury must consider that not all the material cited had originated from Sabine, and that “all roads led back to the Whistleblower Kids blog”.
Adkin’s contention is that there is nothing to say that links to old material would put Sabine in breach of the restraining order, Judge Cahill said. She noted that Adkin had said “you cannot make public something which is already public”.
Adkin had also pointed out that if harassment was Sabine’s goal, there were easier ways to achieve it, Judge Cahill said.
Adkin told the jury that Sabine’s activities at Synod, as well as her call to the helpline, did not constitute “making public” information which would have breached the restraining order.
Judge Cahill said that Adkin had asked the jury to look closely at how Sabine’s mind works, and to consider that she had nothing to gain by stalking the parents.
Adkin said that Sabine was behaving rationally in believing Ella Draper, and that she now realises and accepts that she caused alarm and distress to the parents.
Final directions before retiring the jury
Judge Cahill said that the jury must now examine all the evidence before them.
Their first task, she said, would be to elect a foreperson, who would chair their discussions, and who would come back and speak on their behalf.
Judge Cahill then directed the jury that they must reach a verdict on which they were all unanimous, on all 21 counts on the indictment.
She reiterated that the only time they could discuss the case was when all 12 of them were in the same room together.
The jury retired to consider its verdict.
Reporting restrictions are permanent
While the jury are deliberating, we’d like to raise an important element of this case which will have lasting repercussions for Hoaxtead Research.
Readers will now be aware that in December 2017, Judge Beddoe imposed reporting restrictions on the trial of Regina v Sabine McNeill, under Section 46 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999.
This restriction means that in order to protect the privacy of witnesses and their children, none of the “parent witnesses” in this trial must be named. This restriction extends beyond the duration of the trial, until such time as the court may decide to dis-apply it.
This means that from now on, we will be unable to mention any witnesses from this trial, whether in our blog posts or our comments section, even if initials are used instead of full names.
The kicker: we cannot tell you the names of the people whose names we must not mention, because to mention them would put us in contempt of court. Yes, we are serious.
However, we think you’ll agree that this is an important part of ensuring that those who stood up in court, potentially exposing themselves and their families to further alarm and distress, remain as well-protected as possible.
And now…we wait.