Cult leader 'sexually assaulted followers and imprisoned daughter'


The leader of a far-left cult sexually assaulted two of his followers and effectively imprisoned his own daughter in the commune for 30 years, a court has been told.

Aravindan Balakrishnan, 75, known as Comrade Bala, carried out a "brutal" campaign of "violence" and "sexual degradation" against the women over several decades, jurors heard.

Prosecutor Rosina Cottage QC told London's Southwark Crown Court that, in his youth, Balakrishnan was a charismatic man who brainwashed his followers.

He kept the women as psychological prisoners so they believed he was "all-powerful and all-seeing", and subjected them to serious violence and abuse, jurors heard.

Ms Cottage said: "This case concerns the brutal and calculated manipulation by one man, this defendant, to subjugate women under his control.

"In order to bend them to his will, he used mental and physical dominance and violence, sexual degradation and, in relation to one, his daughter, he controlled every sphere of her life to the extent that she was unable either emotionally or physically to leave his influence until she was 30 years old and was in fact very ill with diabetes."

Grey-haired Balakrishnan, of Enfield, north London, sat in the dock wearing a blue anorak and thick-rimmed spectacles and listened to the proceedings through a hearing loop.

He denies seven counts of indecent assault and four counts of rape against two women during the 1970s and 1980s.

He also denies three counts of actual bodily harm, cruelty to a child under the age of 16 and false imprisonment.

None of his alleged victims can be named for legal reasons.

The court heard that, in the 1970s, Balakrishnan was at the helm of a communist group known as the Workers Institute and based in Acre Lane in Brixton, south London.

Beguiled by his charisma and radical politics, a number of people became his followers, jurors heard.

Ms Cottage said: "He was at that time in his 30s and a charismatic man and a vivid and energetic speaker.

"He drew a number of people to him and his plan was to overthrow the fascist state, as he saw it."

But as time went by, his political influence "waned" and the group dwindled until just six women were left.

Ms Cottage said: "One was his wife Chandra, but she and the others had all been so dominated and brainwashed to the extent that they believed that he was all-powerful and all-seeing.

"The atmosphere within the collective was controlled by the defendant and his moods. Each woman lived a life of violence, fear, isolation and confinement."

His daughter was born into the collective and "had no independent life" at all, the court heard.

Ms Cottage said: "She was bullied, beaten and separated from the world. She never went to school, she never played with a friend, she never saw a doctor or a dentist. She barely left the house.

"She was hidden from the outside world, and it kept from her, except as a tool with which to terrify her into subjugation.

"Her freedom of movement was restrained to the extent that, even though she could have left physically, the power that the defendant exercised over her meant that she could never leave. She tried once."

The two women he sexually abused were "cowed into submission by the defendant's continual debilitating mental and physical violence", the prosecutor said.

She added: "They stayed in the collective too frightened to leave and hating to stay.

"They were forced into sexual acts over which they had no choice and were deliberately degrading and humiliating.

"He seemed to exult in his power over them."

Documentary Footage of London 'Commune' Members in 1997