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.