A jury of nine men and three women sat through two weeks
of evidence and unanimously found the man who sexually assaulted my daughter guilty.
She had come through 18 months of questioning by police before the case began at the Crown Court. Then the jury watched two hours of her video evidence and sat through a further four hours of her
They heard every tawdry detail. The whole family was also put through it, not just my daughter; I had to give evidence, my other daughters too. Jason Blair, a prominent member of our Jewish community, was found guilty of five counts of sexual assault.
The judge heard it all and he sentenced him to seven years, telling him: “You calculated, rightly at the time, that [the victim] would not take steps to report you. The reality is that you have brought this all down on yourself.”
Convicted. It was over and my daughter should have been able to start to heal and recover. But, during the seven weeks between conviction and sentencing, we started to hear that members of our community who haven’t heard all of evidence think they know different.
Rumours have been, and are still being spread about our characters, implying that my daughter and the rest of us made it up.
“It can’t possibly true – what evidence could they have against him?” they asked.
If only they had been at the trial.
If only they knew how hard it is for a teenage girl to tell of something so personal and embarrassing, and the hours of questioning she had to endure.
Many people will be aware that young people involved in the legal system are entitled to give video evidence to save them some of the distress of court. My daughter gave her video evidence, but if only they had known that that amounted to nearly two hours on tape that was played to the jury
and then she was subjected to a gruelling four further hours in court, albeit on a video link, by the defence.
They went through every small detail with her again. Neither her dad nor I were allowed to be with her. She was in a room with a stranger, a witness support volunteer.
If only they had known that this was just the end of an 18 month long process; did they know how it felt to have social workers and detectives going into school to interview your children, come into your home, and to take your children to the police station to give evidence?
If only they had known the pain of finding out that it was not one offence,
but sustained offences committed for more than a year.
If only they had known the pain that comes when, even after agreeing to put your family through this trauma, being told it would take more than a year and that only a fifth of reported cases are taken on by
Even then, nothing is certain. He only needs to show ‘reasonable doubt’ to walk away. What effect would that have on my family?
If only they had known what it was like for me, and her dad, to be in a waiting room while each of our children had to give evidence and be cross-examined. We saw the upset and distress caused by court delays, the effect this has on their schoolwork and friendships. And so much more I cannot write here.
To the doubters, those who didn’t hear the evidence, please ask yourselves why won’t you trust the people who did hear all the evidence, who were there, who did hear the details and heard his defence?
Please ask yourselves why any child, any family would put themselves through this if it hadn’t happened?
To the doubters, ask yourselves why any child, any family, would put themselves through court, giving evidence and being
cross-examined, if it hadn’t happened?
The world is waking up to the fact that people generally do not make these things up, especially not children. My daughter didn’t make this up. It took tremendous courage for her to tell me what had happened, to tell the police and to go to court.
For too long, these crimes have not been taken seriously, sometimes covered up, and it is upsetting to think that this kind of attitude still prevails in this day and age.
Trust in a fair judicial system is vital for any society to function. It assumes innocence unless guilt is proved beyond reasonable doubt. We have judges to make sure the law is applied correctly and fairly. Where are we as a community and society if we do not trust this system – do not trust our children?
We cannot be so naïve as to think that Jewish people are any less capable of a crime of this nature than any other religious or racial group. He had been CRB checked and trusted to work with teenagers in a number of different Jewish communities and places. He did not have a label on his head saying that he was capable of sexual abuse, and appeared to be fun and exciting to young people.
The nature of sexual abuse is subtle, usually with vulnerable people and by someone known to the victim. It takes conditioning and grooming to get a victim to cooperate, and conditioning of their wider circle so that it is not suspected. Ensuring their silence is vital and it usually involves emotional blackmail. It is so hard to understand why a person would commit such a crime, but it happens.
We need to listen to and protect our young people. It is more important than protecting our sensibilities.
Our youth are the future of our faith and traditions, and while we can’t walk around being suspicious of everyone, or become paranoid when an accusation is made, we have to have faith in the police, social workers, the CPS, counsellors, teachers and that they are equipped to see who is telling the truth and who is not; they are trained professionals.
Equally, barristers, judges and juries have to be trusted to apply the law justly; to trust that when there is reasonable doubt, a jury cannot give a guilty verdict. Without this trust, the cycle of abuse could continue, leaving a trail of damage.
There are no winners from these events; everyone loses. My daughter was incredibly brave for taking this through the legal system, as were her sisters. Support from their Jewish school was hugely important
to us, as well as from Norwood, family and friends.
I can’t change what has happened. I wish I could. But I can ask you to listen, to be honest and fair about these difficult issues, and to trust the impartiality in the judicial system.
All I can do is hope for a culture of acceptance.