CHILD-ABUSE TRIAL: jury urged to put ‘crucial’ evidence before emotion

NEWS from Nottingham Crown Court.
NEWS from Nottingham Crown Court.

Doubt has been cast over the validity of key dates in evidence that could convict a 64-year-old Mansfield man of sexually assaulting a girl.

John Lett, of Arran Square, is accused of abusing the girl when looking after her at her family home while her father attended medical appointments at hospital or the doctor’s.

He denies the offences, which are said to have taken place while the girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was aged five to eight on dates between January 2011 and October 2013.

And his barrister, Dominic Shelley, defending, told the jury at Nottingham Crown Court that they couldn’t have happened on several of the days quoted because they were before Lett and the girl’s father became friends and while her mother was still living with them. Later days quoted were after the parents had split up and when the girl was staying with her mum or her grandparents, he added.

“We have been consumed with emotion during the course of this trial, but we have missed the evidence,” said Mr Shelley. “The dates are crucial.

“This is not about emotion, but opportunity. If he wasn’t at the girl’s house at the time, he couldn’t have done it.

“The mother said she never left her daughter alone with Lett. The father said she moved out of the home in March 2012.”

Mr Shelley also urged the jury not to find Lett guilty because of his previous conviction in 2013 when he was jailed for sexually assaulting a three-year-old girl and for making or having thousands of indecent images.

“What he did in the past has come back to haunt him,” said the barrister. “But this is not a witch-hunt. These allegations are disgusting, but you need to get rid of preconceptions. Don’t convict him because he did it before. He has paid his price. We are here to try him on the evidence, not on his character or on what we think about child abuse.”

It was after the girl’s mother found about Lett’s 2013 conviction that she asked her daughter whether he had ever touched her. When the girl began to reveal the sordid details, the mum rang 999 to tell the police in a harrowing phone-call that was played in court.

In the background could be heard the girl “clearly distraught and clearly frightened of the consequences because she thought he might find her and do something to her,” said Stephen Kemp, prosecuting.

Mr Kemp said the only alternative to Lett’s guilt was that the girl, who is now ten, “lied and was deluded, that it was all an act and a figment of her imagination”. “But is this a realistic possibility?” asked Mr Kemp. “To accuse a man she had last seen two years earlier and for no apparent reason. A man she had been fond of, who had been a friend of her father and had helped her with her reading?

“As a ten-year-old girl, she would have no conception of this sort of behaviour unless it had actually happened to her.

“Lett says he was never left alone with the girl. Yet her father confirmed that when he went to the hospital or the doctor’s during the school holidays, he left her in his care.”

Mr Kemp accepted that Lett’s previous convictions do not prove that he was guilty on this occasion. “But they clearly show that he had a sexual interest in young girls at that time,” he added.

“The convictions also show that he was prepared to act beyond that sexual interest to satisfy his own gratification.

“There is no other sensible or logical conclusion other than the girl is telling the truth and Lett is not. She was abused by him on a number of occasions.”

The jury is expected to retire to consider its verdict on Friday morning after hearing a summing-up of the case by the judge, Recorder Stuart Sprawson.