The widow of a Court of Appeal judge, who has been cleared of historic sex abuse charges, has called for all those accused of crimes to be granted anonymity until they are charged.
Lady Lavinia Nourse from Newmarket, Suffolk, who was married to Sir Martin Nourse who died in 2017, was accused by a man of abusing him as a young boy in the 1980s.
The 77-year-old was found not guilty of all 17 charges against her this year by jurors at Peterborough’s Nightingale court, having described the man’s account of the abuse in her evidence as a “complete fantasy”.
In an emotional interview with Emma Barnett on Woman’s Hour on Wednesday, Lady Nourse broke down in tears several times describing her experience of being accused and then taken to court over allegations of historic child sex abuse.
During her first broadcast interview since her acquittal in May, she said she wanted to “raise awareness of the question of anonymity up to the point of charge”, claiming it would be a “step forward”.
Recounting the moment she became aware her accuser, who she said was known to her, was making the allegations, she said: “He took me into a public park in Lincoln’s Inn Fields and simply blurted out the news that I had abused him as a young child.
“You can’t imagine what that’s like to be told something so devastatingly awful.”
The man then reported his allegations to the police almost a year later in 2019 and Lady Nourse said she was then questioned by officers for around five hours during which she had discovered her accuser had recorded all of her conversations with him.
Eighteen months later she was charged with 17 offences and went on trial for sexually abusing a boy under the age of 12.
She said she believes that had she not been the wife of a senior judge the case would have not gone to court.
Describing the two-week trial, Lady Nourse said: “Because my husband was such a senior lawyer the shame and just the sheer terror of being in a court and looking at a judge in the kind of clothes my husband used to wear and the whole panic of the court day, you can’t imagine what that’s like for someone who has lived in the law all her life. It was terrifying.
“I’ve never been so frightened, lonely, utterly miserable.”
Lady Nourse said she is still traumatised by the events, and said: “I’m better now than I was two months ago. But even so I’m still plagued with nightmares.
“And then people kept saying, ‘Oh, well, you must be celebrating’, but what’s to celebrate? There’s nothing. I’m left with a shattered life, which I have to pick up, and hold my head up. What’s been said, what’s been written will live with me forever. And yet the person who has made these accusations walks free, and can continue to say whatever he likes for the rest of his life.
“The accuser was very happy to let it be known widely in London, and in and around Newmarket, using his name, and freely admitting that this is what I had done… It was intolerable on top of everything else. I didn’t know who was looking at me, where I could turn, I didn’t know who I could trust. Because I didn’t know what had been said to anyone.”
Lady Nourse suggested she would also like to see the identity of complainants whose allegations are determined to be unfounded “revealed after the case”.
She added: “It’s difficult for me talking to you because I know who accused me but of course I can’t say who accused me. And this makes conversations with you or anyone else very difficult because I can’t be honest and frank. That’s what makes it so appalling. And makes things like this so difficult because I can’t be truly honest about him.”