Press

We soon receive good news.  Sentencing has been postponed for a further 3 weeks.  We now have what seems like a real stretch of time together.  6 weeks: A whole school holiday of time.  I work as little as possible, we see our favourite people, take little day trips to Brighton and the London Aquarium and go for long walks together, but mostly we just cuddle up.  It is an itch that is impossible to scratch.  I try to build a reservoir of closeness that I can draw on later, but it can’t be done.  I ache after even a few hours apart.  I will miss this basic human contact and his dear, familiar face and form terribly.  When I wake in the morning and remember all over again that I will be waking up alone for the next few years, my chest tightens and I feel small and hollow.

I learn that the press embargo that has been in effect since the verdict is to be lifted.  A simple google search brings up various results. It is basically the same article based on the press release put out by HMRC.  I am utterly shocked by what I am reading.  If any one of the things I have just read were true no judge in their right mind could have thrown this out of court.  The things that are now reported as if they are fact are a collection of random figures and sound bites organised into something monstrous: It sounds as if the accused, now branded “a gang” pretended that they were making films, stole the money and hid it in offshore accounts belonging to friends and family. When you loose it seems that they can say whatever they like and pass it off as truth.  I feel humiliated.  All the people who have supported us will no doubt soon be reading this and wondering if I have fed them a pack of lies.  There is no mention in the article of the judge throwing the case out and the wilful misconstruing of practically every detail mentioned stuns me.

All the way through this process I feel as if we have had no voice.  Right at the beginning Rob’s layer explained to me that if I was ever questioned I would be well advised not to speak. “You think that you will be able to make this go away by telling them what is actually happening” He said, “But what you have to understand is that they are not looking to understand the business or the film scheme.  They are looking to prosecute and everything you say that doesn’t serve this end will be ignored and everything you say that can be used against you will be, so although it might be very much against your nature, and however rude it might seem to you, you have to shut up!” It was absolutely the right advice.

Then in court we again don’t tell our story: After the prosecution have done their worst the judge dismisses the case.  When this is overturned on appeal by HMRC it leaves our QC as well as the judge in a quandary.  How can you defend yourself against a case where according to the judge the evidence presented had nothing to do with the indictment, (i.e the specific charge against them)? Where do you even start? By taking the stand you also risk creating evidence and complicating what is at present clear i.e. that there is no evidence of any wrong doing pertaining to the indictment and therefore no legal case.  It is the job of the prosecution to make you look like a liar and a fool and anything you do say that makes sense of their accusations tends to be met with “well you would say that wouldn’t you”. In light of this what is the point in dragging this gruelling trial out for a further 3 months?

So we rest our case relying on the excellent testimony of the film producers who have been called by the prosecution, and who should therefore have proven all the allegations of the crown and confirmed that this wasn’t a real businesses, and yet every one of them couldn’t speak more highly of the services they received, the idea behind the business itself or the good character of the defendants.  We would have liked to have put a tax expert on the stand but, unbelievably this was not allowed.

The jury go out to deliberate.  Their guide is an extensive and detailed set of directions drawn up by the judge aimed at forcing the jury to cut through all of the crap to find what evidence has actually been presented relevant to the indictment upon which they are being asked to decide. The problem is that it took the Judge himself over 3 weeks to understand that most of the evidence did not relate to the indictment and therefore that there was no case to answer, and even then he got it wrong the first time and had to correct himself.  How could the jury be asked to grapple with such complexity on their own ? I doubt most of them even understood the directions, and yet this is what was forced upon the judge by the court of appeal.  One of the legal team admitted that he had to re-read the directions multiple times to understand them: That’s a criminal barrister with 20+ years experience of fraud cases.

So the jury, left on their own for a month in a room construct who knows what kind of scenario in their minds and convict. We still have no idea why they came to this decision or what they believe happened.  No one has heard our story, and now it is looking as if no one ever will because the jury finds them guilty and so now the story is about “gangs” and “scamming” and “fraudsters”.

I feel physically sick. I start to think about people I know who might know a journalist and then it dawns on me that times have moved on a bit.  In this digital age everybody has a platform.  I have never read a blog or been on Facebook or Twitter or anything like that, I’m a technological dinosaur, but I have a teenage daughter and I can type, so here I am, writing my story and my family’s story for anybody who cares about us or the film industry or the legal system or what it is like to find yourself on the wrong end of the criminal justice system.

I hope that this will be a story of resilience in the face of adversity and of light in dark places, but the truth is that I don’t really know what will happen on the 24th of June when “the gang” are sentenced and the judge orders the guards to take them down.  Whatever happens to us and to Rob I will record it here in this blog so that you can share it if you want to, and I will try to make sure that our story is heard at last.  Thank you for reading. It helps me to write and get the things in my head onto the page so that I can sleep at night, because I do have a voice and I think that I can bear all of the injustice and the separation as long as I don’t have to do the thing that women have been doing for centuries and suck it up.  I am not going to suffer or celebrate in silence, I’m going to do it as loudly as I can and all I need is this page.

By | June 20th, 2016|

School

One of the first things that Tala does during the wretched hysteria of that first night is to beg to tell her school friends.  I manage to contact her teacher in the hour after I get the news.  Frankly I need her help.  I just can’t get Tala to calm down and so I actually do that thing that parents everywhere threaten their kids with when they loose control and call her teacher in the hope that she can use some of that teacher magic and bring her back to sanity.  She is completely ignorant of the situation and so I try to give her a brief outline of what has happened.

She has just returned home from taking 24 children camping for a week in the rain.  Frankly I’d be practically suicidal and delirious with exhaustion, but whatever is going on for her she is a rock to me.  She wrangles Tala over the phone and the volume of crying reduces by a notch or two.  They make a plan together that Tala will stay home tomorrow and that we will have a meeting after school to find the best way to tell the class so that everyone can be there for her.  She assures her that she has a big family at school too and that they are going to support her and that she will get through all of this.  Now there are two of us shouldering the grief of this child and I am reminded of the saying that it takes a village to raise a child.  I’m a mess, there is no way I can cope in this moment but luckily there are reinforcements jumping into the breach.  It is humbling and life affirming and totally indispensable.

Tala is a little nervous about the meeting. It’s 3.30 – school pick up, so we cross paths with some of her class mates who greet her excitedly and ask why she wasn’t at school. “We have a family crisis” She replies with surprising confidence “I will tell everyone soon”. Her teacher spends and hour and a half with us, letting her talk around the issue, migrate into other topics and then return to the matter in hand.  When we have finished Tala skips out of school, totally down with the situation.  We have talked about the best and worst that could happen in terms of jail terms, the practical implications of loosing our house etc. and familiarised ourselves with everything.  We have decided that I will come into school with Tala first thing on Monday morning and that I will help her tell the class and answer any questions that they may have. I will also write an email to send to all the parents.  It seems better to get this in the open and trust that people will understand rather than wait for the rumours to start flying.

When I arrive on Monday morning the children form a “safe circle”. They often use this technique to solve any problems that come up between them.  In a safe circle you can say anything and express whatever you want without fear of judgement.  Tala trusts the sanctity of it implicitly.  I look around at the young expectant faces in front of me.  I feel nervous.
“Some of you know that Tala’s Daddy makes films,” I begin…Somehow I manage to explain what has happened in simple terms.  It is important to Tala that people know that her Dad is innocent, so I explain about the judge throwing it out and the jury who do not know tax law and the fact that sometimes mistakes happen. Tala adds little bits and pieces like how long the appeal will take if it even happens (2 years), and about how he will be able to get into a nicer jail after a while called open prison where he will be able to learn things, just like in school.  A few of them are heartened by this but most of them are totally crestfallen.  Some are crying and need to be comforted by their neighbours in the circle, no doubt imagining how they would feel if their Dad was taken away.

They want to know how often we can see him and one little lad puts his hand up just to tell me he is very sorry for our family, but the questions dry up quickly and I make my exit.  I feel dreadful.  I have walked into a room of smiling carefree little people and left them shattered, but the teacher assures me that they will be fine and that this experience is as valuable to their education as what is on the curriculum.  I get home and it is clear that the email has reached the parents.  By the end of the day I have an inbox full of the most generous and supportive emails I could have imagined from 22 out of 24 families. It is a fortress of support. I start to truly believe that I can get through this.

One of the mums turns out to be the family liaisons officer for all of the London prisons.  She has three kids of her own and works pretty much all the time from what I gather, but she kindly finds the time to call me for over an hour and talks me through what I can expect from visiting.  Although Rob will initially be sent to a holding prison outside Birmingham the procedure is more or less the same.  Apparently initially we will only get an hour or so visit every 2 weeks until Rob can build up extra visiting through good behaviour.  Visits will be in a large public hall and we will all have to sit on allocated chars which are nailed to the floor.  Everything will be watched on cameras.  If we are late we won’t get in.  If any of the details of our ID’s fail to match those on the visiting order we won’t get in. Sometimes you just don’t get in because there has been a mix up.  You have no rights and good grace is the only way though.  There tend to be lots of very distressed children at the weekend visiting so it can get extremely noisy.

It doesn’t sound great, but then there are good things like schemes where Dad’s can record themselves reading a book and send the audio to their children.  It also seems that there are lots of opportunities to be of service to others inside: You can become a listener for example where you are available to talk to the very distressed depressed people who, for a whole litany of reasons, have found themselves inside.  I know immediately that Rob will be ok, thrive even. He is a truly good man in the deepest sense of the word and I begin to suspect that he might find more fulfilment listening to people who need help than he has for many years battling to make films.

By | June 20th, 2016|

Tagged

It is the day after.  Only 30 hours since the news.  I feel weird.  Peaceful and almost calm, but definitely very weird, as if I’ve died and come back to life in a slightly different universe.  Tala is sleeping and the three of us, Okha, Rob and I are sitting on the sofa under blankets watching Deadpool on the kind of illegal download site normally banned in our film household, but frankly no-one gives a damm today.

I’m asleep really, but I don’t want to miss a second with Rob so I fall asleep against his chest and sleep deeply like a baby that can only settle on its mother.  It is 11 pm but a rapping on the door wakes me.  Robs answers it and I hear muffled conversation through the sitting room wall before a slight woman enters.  She has come to tag Rob.  He has a curfew between 10pm and 7am. She explains that we will only ever hear from the tagging service in the hours of the curfew, hence why she is here so late.  It strikes me how perfect she is for her job.  She is matter of fact and polite without being insensitive to how this must feel for the family.  She doesn’t intrude on us, and works quickly to set up the monitoring box in the corner of the room.  It has to go somewhere where it won’t be in the way or get unplugged.  In the weeks to come I worry that someone will forget and unplug it, setting off the alarm, and probably a cascade of trouble, but it survives a 10th birthday party and numerous close calls with teenagers plugging in their phones.

The tag is bigger than I thought it might be.  A plastic band around the ankle holds the clunky tracking device. Apparently this is an updated model that is more comfortable, and at least it is waterproof.  Rob models it gamely, making light of the situation as usual.  She tells him to walk around the entire house and trace the perimeter of every room.  He even has to put his foot into the bath so that the motoring box can learn what is house and what is not.  He can’t go into the garden after curfew or step outside even for a moment to put the bins out.  Every cloud has a silver lining I suppose…

Okha is clearly disturbed by the entire thing.  I am to learn that she can cope with the situation only by pretending that it isn’t happening.  After this first night where she wants to be near us, she is mostly out, sometimes for days at a time.  When she is forced to listen to me explaining the ins and outs of the case to my lovely sister in law, she is bored and resentful. Escapism, denial and separation are her salvation.  Who can blame her? She already lost one father when we spit up when she was one.  She found Rob in the yoga centre he owned when she was 3.  He created Pony World out of yoga mats for her, made her laugh, taught her to wink, made her collars and leads out of newspaper so that she could be a dog, loved her, taught her to trust men again, and adopted her when she was nine so that she could be as much his as his birth daughter.  Theirs was a relationship of choice, and it was all the stronger for that.  It is hard to truthfully disentangle what is normal teenage journey and what is damage incurred from the threat to this primary relationship by the prosecution, but it can hardly have helped.  She has given up on school and prefers to work. She can do that without thinking, pay her way and ultimately has her independence.  I see the appeal. She is reliable and charming at work and everybody seems to love having her around, I am immensely proud of her for this, and I also miss her deeply.

The tag looks like something put on a pigeon to monitor its movements.  When I catch sight of it I am reminded forcefully of how powerless we are to stop this train. This is happening and no amount of positive thinking, or ranting about injustice and witch hunts will stop it, and yet because of the tag, Rob is still here.  We have some more time left, to prepare for what is to come. He puts a 70’s style sweat band over the tag to stop it chaffing on his ankle.  Concerned acquaintances wonder has happened to the apparently bandaged joint, “Oh, its just a little something he says” with characteristic understatement, and not because he is ashamed, rather because he truly feels that he has nothing to fuss about. For him what is happening on the outside is meaningless compared to what is happening inside – the eternal practice of self enquiry.

The only time I ever hear him mention his situation is when a cold caller tries to get him to upgrade his phone contract, “Sorry mate, I’m going to prison so I won’t be needing a phone anymore”. The call is over in seconds. Iy’s a devastatingly effective approach because you don’t need anything in prison beyond what is in that shabby prison bag, and no sales man on the planet can change that.  There is something genuinely liberating in this.  After years of running businesses and paying salaries and bills and getting up every day to make things happen and taking care of us he is going to a place where he can’t do any of those things and perhaps the most overwhelming feeling for him might be that of relief.  He is tired of fighting.  What set out as a great idea to invigorate the film industry, has been kicked and beaten into a bloody pulp.  He is happy to sit quietly in a cell all day so long as he doesn’t have to talk about any of it ever again.

By | June 20th, 2016|

Hell

It’s after midnight.  Sleep is an out and out impossibility.  Okha still isn’t home.  I feel deeply let down by her, somehow expecting that my need to gather the four of us and bind ourselves together tightly would be her need too.  Her coping strategy involves copious alcohol, the solace of the boy from the date and the familiar routine of frustrating even the smallest expectations of her.  It’s the perfect teenage storm.  I am totally broken.  The dawning realisation that I am loosing my oldest daughter to her own life, wherever that will take her is confirmed.  It is inevitable and right that children break from their parents, but it is brutal tonight.

Sentencing will be in three weeks.  It is nothing short of a gift from the Gods and very unusual.  The judge didn’t even request bail.  He has seen these men day in, day out and tried his best to end it for them.  He has seen the statement from the tax expert, reviewed all the evidence, thrown the case out, been overturned, and given instructions to the jury which, had they followed them, could not have resulted in a conviction.  Now he does the last thing he can do and sends them home for three weeks.  I am pathetically grateful, and yet I can’t seem to look at Rob or hold him enough to even begin to fill the chasm that has opened in my chest.

Sleeping seems like an utter waste of the time we have left and in any case my body is systematically ridding itself of the entire contents of my stomach.  We cling together all night.  Although I know that he is not dead, I am suddenly acutely aware of the fact that one day he will die, or I will and I am utterly certain that I will not be able to bear it.  Love is a sadistic joke entailing inevitable pain in direct proportion to the strength of the love.  It is unbearable.  I can think of half a dozen of my friends who would probably be quite glad to get rid of their husbands for the next decade – an hours supervised visit twice a month would suit them fine, but for us it is a torture.  I know that I am somewhat of a freak of nature and perhaps this will sound smug, but you see, I have been madly and ever more deeply in love with my husband since I met him fifteen years ago.

I have a sudden crazed thought that we could escape – swim across the channel and melt into the continent, go anywhere, do anything to survive, just so long as we could all stay together.  Rob laughs when I suggest it. He’d never run away from anything anyway.  I feel as if I have gone totally mad.  This is beyond surreal.

I wait until it is just decent to start calling people.  I dread telling the awful news, but I can’t contain it anymore either.  I know these will be grim calls to receive, but I don’t care.  I can barely speak when I call my parents.  I just cry down the phone at them.  My Dad offers to drive over, my mum does the only thing she can do and says how sorry she is.  The love and pain in her voice envelps me for a moment.  She stays on the phone until there isn’t any point because neither of us can say anything.  I keep on making the horrid calls out of respect for all the people who have been there all the way through this, and in the vain hope that it will help to talk.  It doesn’t.

People are so very kind.  Over the coming weeks they offer everything from financial help and holiday homes to healing herbs and oil, to free ballet lessons and perhaps best of all tea and chats. People offer their time, their ears and their prayers. I feel held by this outpouring of concern and love.  Over the next few days little care packages begin to arrive, it is humbling and the best possible medicine, and yet everywhere that Rob goes he finds me collapsed over on the floor: a puddle of dispairing wife.  I can’t eat, I haven’t slept, I have a period from hell, my back aches, I’m exhausted and utterly dejected, added to which I’m ruining the small amount of time we have left.

Rob makes the call to his mum. She lives alone since Rob’s dad went out for a walk and had a sudden fatal heart attack two years ago.  She has never recovered from this loss; further proof that the deeper the love the more cruel the separation.  I understand her pain more profoundly that ever before.  She is unbelievably stoic. It is unlikely that she will ever see Rob again as a free man, and this must be a cruel blow to her, but she tries to comfort him, tells him how much he is loved and only has thoughts for him.  As he puts the phone down deep sobs escape him and he weeps briefly into my shoulder.  It is the first and only time he falters.

I start to make the international calls and reach my dear friend in Ibiza, a proper German hippy who lived under a fig tree for two years and has accumulated more life experience in her little finger than I have in my whole body.  She has luxuriant leg hair not seen anywhere in the civilised world since the 70’s.  She is fabulous.  I deliver the news for what feels like the hundredth time. “Oh Fuck!” she correctly exclaims…then a long pause before she follows this up with, “Well Josels, Robbie’s gonna love it, I tell you that for free! He’s gonna have his own little monastery going on there in his cell.” She stops me in my tracks.  She continues. “Yes Josels, you know, we talk about these things sometimes and he told me that if he had not had you guys in his life he would have gone off to the Himalayas or something to sit in a cave, and Josels these Himalaya retreat thingies can last for years you know, so really he is getting the best of all worlds – you, and the monastery all in one!” It’s outrageous what she is saying, but it is completely true.

Suddenly everything shifts. It is like a lightbulb turning on in the pitiful darkness that has engulfed me. If ever there was a man well suited to life in a cell it is Rob.  He has been doing meditation every day for as long as I can remember: He has to drag himself off that cushion in the morning.  He loves yoga and reading and sitting – all things you can do in a cell.  This might not be what we want, but perhaps it could be what we need?

By | June 20th, 2016|

Telling Tala

“Mamma? Why are you crying? Is Daddy going to die?” “No darling, Daddy is fine”.  It’s a lie, clearly, but I just want to tell her something good first, before the real telling has to happen.  She is totally in the dark about the entire situation.  We had deliberated telling her during the trial sometime, but it had all gone so well: We had a great judge who was bending over backwards to do the right thing, sometimes making mistakes and then having the good grace to correct himself after further consideration.  I trusted him, trusted in the process, the Great British Justice System.  I believed my friends when they said that nothing this wrong could happen to people like us.  My friend had even asked her psychic who had given us the all clear. Water tight!  In any case, how do you tell a nine year old that her Dad might be sent to jail for 10 – 16 for something he hasn’t done?  Where do you even begin with that? How does she get up and feel good about the world knowing that everything that means the most to her could be taken away in a moment? I’m about to find out how to do that, and very fast.

I choose my words carefully. “Daddy is coming home now and we have something to talk to you about together when he gets back”.  There is no way on earth that is going to fly. “No Mamma, tell me now” she says, all the beatific lightness gone from her small face.  I mumble something incoherent about him needing to work away for quite a long time.  He has never worked away. It’s an outright fib and she knows it.  Smelling weakness she is on the attack. “Tell me Mamma! You have to tell me now!” and then, suddenly, “is Daddy going to jail?”.  Her question blind sides me. “Yes” I say, trying to hold her with my eyes and with every part of myself, trying to make it sound plausible and bearable and failing as she screams out “No!  Why! He can’t go to jail, what has he done?”.

I beat out a pocket sized explanation about films and governments, money and rules, mistakes and injustices. It makes no sense and yet she understands immediately. “They can’t send Daddy to jail… he hasn’t done anything wrong! I need my Daddy, don’t they know I need him? How long for? Tell them they have made a mistake Mamma”. She is screaming now, and hysteria reminiscent of the terrible two’s (and threes and fours in her case) is setting in. “How long for Mamma? How long?” I deflect the question, avoid it, protest ignorance, but she carries on and on, wearing me down.  I offer a conservative figure, chopping the minimum sentence in half.  She howls in pain, doing the maths.  “I’ll be fifteen Mamma.”

She is out and out screaming now. “He’ll miss my whole childhood!” Now I’m crying too.  It is true.  I watch my lovely girl being broken in front of my eyes.  I feel as if I’m tearing pieces of her skin off.  She offers to sell everything she owns and sleep on the floor to right the wrong that Rob is supposed to have done.  She has been saving her pocket money for over a year now in a bid to be the sensible one of the family and save up for something big one day – a car maybe. She offers it all up now, trying to find a way to make this thing that is happening somehow not happen.  It takes me over an hour to get her to realise that we can’t change this.  She is totally inconsolable.

I call our other daughter Okha, 18 who is out on an uncharacteristically sophisticated first date at the Tate Modern.  She has been in the loop ever since our house was dawn raided 7 years ago and her toys and drawers were meticulously searched by police hoping to find what exactly? I’m still not sure.  I tell her that I need her and beg her to come home to help me with Tala.  She promises to come immediately, but it will take at least an hour in the traffic.  I don’t know what to do to stop the screaming and the shredding of my little girl’s heart. “Nothing can take Daddy away from us really”, I say.  “He is ours and nothing can stop us loving him.  We mustn’t let them break our hearts”. “It’s too late” she shouts, “they have broken my heart, its broken already”.

Finally I hear the familiar ting ting of Rob’s bike bell announcing his homecoming.  Usually Tala and I race our dog Ruby to the door to greet him and it’s a noisy scene of bike bell, dog bark, giggling and kissing, but tonight only I go.  He looks wonderfully familiar on the door step, smiling still despite it all.  I can’t contain the love I feel for him, now more than ever.  The huge pride I feel for this extraordinary strength that he finds from heaven only knows where to have dealt with this thing, year after year, day after tedious day in court and for what?  Did we ever really have a chance?

Ultimately all the facts, all the evidence (or total lack of it), all the laws and all the legislation had counted for nothing.  All the prosecution had to do was to make it look bad, which is easy to do if you present discombobulated aspects of the scheme out of context and ignore everything that made it work and keep asking the jury if they thought it was right that money could circulate off shore.  They didn’t think that it was right.  The fact that it can and does and that this is pretty bog standard in the financial world didn’t matter as the jury was empowered to decide for themselves what they thought about it.   No tax expert was ever put on the stand – HMRC wouldn’t have one, as they could never have got anyone to disagree with the scheme, and we were not permitted to use our expert for technical legal reasons that I haven’t yet managed to get my head around.

Finally at gone 11 Tala reaches the end.  She is totally cried out.  We tell her about two little boys, friends of ours, whose Dad had a sudden heart attack and died instantly in the bedroom above them as they played downstairs.  Ordinarily this wouldn’t be the kind of bedtime story I’d advise, but right now this is a huge comfort to her and to me. I think about his lovely wife, always smiling, always graceful and full of life and light and pull myself together.  This is not a sad story, it’s a journey.

By | June 20th, 2016|

The Verdict

The prison bag sits underneath our clothing rail in the bedroom where it has been gathering dust for almost three months.  It’s a North Face bag whose previous uses have included trips to Cuba, LA, New York and Ibiza, weddings, funerals, visits to the in laws, camping trips, yoga retreats – It’s been around, but now it waits, holding an unlikely collection of items helpfully recommended by kindly veterans of holidays at Her Majesty’s pleasure.  It contains an assortment of the usual socks, pants, T shirts and joggers, some pretty hideous shower shoes, a small radio, batteries, stamps, stationary, 3 precious books that have been deliberated over for hours, the closest thing permissible to a yoga mat.  No hoods, no black, no camo.

I am entirely used to it now.  During the first long weeks that the jury were out I hated it.  I unpacked it mentally, saving the things that could be used in the course of our free lives, chucking the shower shoes for sure, wondering about the radio.  The yoga towels might be good for the beach?

As the deliberation goes on I begin to be grateful for the continued presence of the bag.  As long as it remains where it is, so will he.  Every morning on the door step I say, “You just keep coming home, OK? You hear me? You just come home”. “I’ll try” he says and disappears on his bike, long legs turning the wheels easily.  Fit, handsome, mine.

Being naturally nosy I have spent months bursting to know the outcome of this 9 month marathon of a trial, but not any more. I don’t care if I never know, if it never ends, no clear outcome, no release, no certainty, so long as he just keeps coming home.

It is May 12th.  I pick my little daughter up from an ambitious camping trip with her school.  It has rained all week.  She greets me with a posy she has picked and held in a hot hand for the entire three and a half hour coach trip.  It’s a little wilted, but it touches me more than I can say.  She is grubby and exhausted and so so happy to be home.

We sit entwined in the garden eating watermelon, talking and telling and laughing.  It is heaven.  Rob is due home soon.  The jury finish at 3.30 and we had spoken at 3.  I don’t even ask anymore if there is any news.  It has been a month without news.  Every morning he leaves before 8, travels to Birmingham, sits in the court buildings all day and comes home at 6. Tomorrow the judge is otherwise engaged and so if we can make it until the end of the day we are looking forward to another weekend together.

The days when weekends were overshadowed by what might be coming are long gone. We just live the moments, all of them, not letting the menace of fear darken our times together.  Tala wants to trick Rob and begs me to tell him she has gone to a friends house, delighting in the thought of the happy surprise he will get when she jumps out from her predictable hiding place behind the front door.  I hunt for my phone, always somewhere else, or on silent. I find it in the car, on silent, vibrating rhythmically with his incoming call.

“Hello darling, are you nearly home, I’m afraid Tala isn’t here”. I say, winking at the now wildly gesticulating Tala, letting her know that her trick is underway. “Darling” he says and I know already from the tone of his voice that he must tell me something that he doesn’t want to speak out loud, something he knows will hurt me.  His voice is so kind and so full of compassion for me and for the pain he is powerless not to inflict.

He comes out with it.  A factual statement.  “We’ve had a verdict and I’m afraid that it is guilty”.  Nothing happens.  It doesn’t register with me.  It’s simply unacceptable.  We know it’s wrong.  We know the judge knows its wrong: He threw it out of court after listening to the prosecution make their case for three months, ruling that there was no case to answer in terms of the evidence presented or the Law.  HMRC appealed however and the case went to the Court of Appeal where the judges’ ruling was overturned, much to his apparent frustration and so here we are.  The jury have made a terrible mistake and surely that can’t be allowed to happen? Denial, total denial.

“Are you OK” I ask? “What about the others?”. “Cyril got off, but they did Norman too”. I’m stunned. Norman Leighton is 65 and retired.  The work he did on the film scheme was a tiny percentage of the work he took on during a single year: a smallish job he probably didn’t even really think about.  The fact that he ended up in the dock at all continues to be a source of puzzlement for everyone involved in the case, the judge included who had in his summing up given a very clear rationale of why Cyril and Norman couldn’t possibly be convicted.

I thank God for Cyril. He has worked with Rob for many years and was an employee who had no involvement in the structuring and running of the business and yet his life has been hostage to this legal process, as has ours, for the last 8 years. He has a beautiful wife and three small children including a baby just months old.  I bless them all mentally and wish them everything good in life.

Suddenly my heart falls through my feet. I tell Rob that I love him so much.  I try to hold it together. I try not to cry.  I can hear that my choked tears are making him feel worse than he must already be feeling. “I’m coming home” he says, “but I’ll be a few hours”.

“Mamma, what’s wrong?”, Tala asks. “What’s happened to Daddy?”

By | June 19th, 2016|
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