A piece in today’s Times:
The multimillionaire hedge fund boss Crispin Odey has been cleared after a junior banker accused him of indecently assaulting her at his home.
The complainant in the case, who met Odey through work, told the court that the financier had put his hand down her shirt and reached up her skirt during a meeting more than 20 years ago.
Then in her mid-twenties, the complainant agreed to a drink with Odey, now 62, in 1998 in the hope that it would “further her career”, the court was told.
Instead, she said, Odey had launched himself at her like “an octopus”.
Odey, who was 39 at the time, admitted he had made “a pass” at the woman and told her that he had hoped the pair would end up “in bed”, but denied indecent assault.
Today, District Judge Nicholas Rimmer, sitting at Westminster magistrates’ court, found Odey not guilty and told the court that he could not accept the woman’s evidence as “credible”.
Earlier, Crispin Aylett QC, for the defence, had spoken of “contradictions” in the complainant’s evidence.
He claimed that the woman had a “natural tendency to embellish and exaggerate”, which he said made her “look like an unreliable historian”.
During the trial and in police interviews, the woman said she had decided to come forward to the police in 2017 following the MeToo movement and allegations made against film mogul Harvey Weinstein.
Giving evidence earlier in the trial, she said she had spoken out about the alleged incident because she wanted to claim “some human dignity”.
She added that rather than “upend the world” she came forward because she wanted to “claim some kind of place to say, you know what, I don’t think we should have to accept this”.
Shortly after the verdict was delivered and still standing in the dock, Odey hugged his wife, Nicola Pease, 59, who is also a leading figure in the financial world.
The “slur” against the hedge fund boss had put a “strain” on his 30-year marriage to Pease, the court was told, as well as damaging his personal and professional life.
District Judge Rimmer said: “I am left unsure of [the complainant’s account] because despite the strength of her emotion and tears, her credibility has been thrown into question and her evidence is riddled with troubling inconsistencies.”
The court was told that the woman had decided to speak out after reading about the case of Weinstein, who was jailed for rape and sexual assault in the US last year.
She also told of her fury after reading a flattering portrayal of Odey in a newspaper, which she did not believe was reflective of his character.
District Judge Rimmer described an “obvious preoccupation with the press”, which he said he found “troubling”. He also spoke of an “apparent desire for publicity”.
Odey admitted he was “ashamed” and “embarrassed” about the incident but claimed the woman had been “exaggerating massively”.
He added that the events of that night more than two decades ago had taught him a lesson.
The case has dragged on for three years, with the Crown Prosecution Service initially deciding not to charge Odey but then changing its position.
The judge said that he found the crown’s initial decision not to proceed “unsurprising”.
Odey, a Conservative Party donor, who backed Boris Johnson’s leadership campaign in 2019, claimed he had found the woman “attractive” and “clever” after meeting her through work.
His wife, who was pregnant at the time, was away with their young children, and Odey claimed that inviting the woman over for dinner was preferable to a “lonely” evening.
He claimed that the mood had been “jovial and light” until, he said, the woman had asked him: “Where is this going to end?”, to which he replied: “It’s going to end up in bed, hopefully”. Odey’s account was disputed by the complainant.
He told the court that the woman had been “appalled” after the comment and admitted he had “misread the signals” and described his behaviour as “foolish”.
The woman says that she believed she was having a drink with Odey as part of a business meeting and had even brought work papers with her.
Describing the alleged assault under cross examination, she said: “He was next to me. It was sort of like an octopussy-type manoeuvre.
“The first thing I remember was actually on my back. Then it was like a scramble of hands, it was like a groping event, is the only way to describe it.
“The very first thing was the hand on my back, I can’t remember the exact sequence, I just remember the general attempt to get involved with my body and on top of me with his hands.”
She added: “I referred to it like an octopus experience — this physical engagement.”
The court heard that the woman had first contacted Odey in November 2013 with her allegations. She had then written to him again in 2017.
Odey admitted that when he received the emails from the woman, his tone had been “conciliatory”. “It was something I didn’t want to come out. It was deeply embarrassing,” he said.
The judge said that although Odey may have made an “unwanted verbal advance” he had to find the case in favour of the defendant.
Addressing Odey directly, he said: “I find you not guilty of this offence. I acquit you, and you will leave this courthouse with your good character intact.” [J4MB emphasis: The judge is clearly a comedian, too.]
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