Justin Lee Collins trial: Put disapproval to one side, judge tells jurors
JURORS who have to decide whether or not television star Justin Lee Collins harassed his ex-girlfriend have been asked to put aside any disapproval of the couple's conduct detailed in court.
After a ten-day trial the panel of nine women and three men began its deliberations on Saturday and will continue today.
Judge John Plumstead, summing up the case, told them: "Neither sympathy nor prejudice are good guides to fair judgment and you must put them to one side to do justice."
During the two-week trial, St Albans Crown Court has heard claims that 38-year-old Collins pulled Anna Larke's hair and slapped her, made sexually derogatory comments about her, deprived her of sleep and insisted she always faced him in bed.
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Describing him as a controlling and "horrible" man, Ms Larke, also 38, accused Collins of compiling a dossier on her previous sexual partners.
The comedian, who found fame on Channel 4 show The Friday Night Project, has told the court that the seven months he spent with Ms Larke after separating from his wife and leaving the marital home in Clifton were "absolute hell".
He told the jury recovering alcoholic Ms Larke was obsessive, possessive and a "compulsive liar".
Collins denies a charge of harassment by causing fear of violence.
The trial judge told jurors: "The complainant says she was subject to a series of physical attacks, causing her to fear violence from the defendant. On the other side, the defendant says he only slapped her twice, in circumstances which, he says, justified the very mild force he described."
Closing the case against Collins, who now lives in Kew, London, prosecuting barrister Peter Shaw told the jury it was true that Ms Larke was an alcoholic, bankrupt and suffering from depression but that did not mean she had made up her claims.
"She's all of the above but she's not a fantasist," he said. "What would cause a woman with a drink problem, living in a nice flat in Richmond with the man she was besotted with, going on international holidays several times a year having money paid into her account by this defendant, what could cause her to walk out on him?
"What could it possibly be? She wanted to be treated properly."
Closing the case for the defence, Collins' barrister Sonia Woodley QC reminded the jury of character references from friends and colleagues of Collins, including his estranged wife Karen, and asked them: "Has this previously pleasant man become a monster overnight and hit her constantly, hundreds of times causing hundreds of bruises? And yet we don't have any independent evidence that that was the case.
"Anna Larke describes the defendant as a wife-beater and that is a very serious allegation to make. But, members of the jury, there is something even worse. That is to be convicted as a wife-beater when you are no such thing."
Ms Woodley said it was "suspicious and very worrying" that only part of a secret recording made by Ms Larke, in which Collins was verbally abusive, had been played to the jury and the original recording had been deleted from the public relations worker's mobile phone.
"We suggest that this is a document that has been doctored by her," said Ms Woodley.
The case continues.