Odey Verdict Shows Challenges of Decades-Old Assault Cases
(Bloomberg) -- British prosecutors pursuing an indecent-assault case against Crispin Odey wavered before ultimately deciding to charge the hedge fund chief.
Just before the high-profile money manager was found not guilty Thursday, Odey’s lawyers told a London judge that officials had considered dropping the case that was based on allegations made by a former investment banker.
The back-and-forth whether to proceed to trial shows the challenges facing authorities as they grapple with low rates of prosecutions in assault cases. After hearing inconsistent testimony about a summer evening more than 20 years ago, the judge said he couldn’t be sure of the woman’s account. Odey, he said, would leave the courtroom with his “good character intact.”
Investigating incidents that occurred years or decades ago relies upon the word of the individuals, and “time has a corrosive effect on memory,” said Sandra Paul, a lawyer at Kingsley Napley in London.
“When the offense is one of sexual misconduct, the minute details of what happened, in what order and who did what are pivotal,” said Paul, who wasn’t involved in the case.
Odey called the allegations “a horrible slur.” A spokesman for Odey Asset Management said that “Crispin has always maintained his innocence, and we are pleased that he has been found not guilty.”
The woman, who was a young banker in equity sales at the time of the incident, said she was inspired to approach police following the widespread coverage of the downfall of the Harvey Weinstein.
The trickery of the disgraced media mogul at the height of the #MeToo movement “jolted” her, she told police.
“We all end up in the same place because no one says anything,” she told a police interviewer.
Police pursued just 3.2% of sexual offenses cases through to a charge in the year ended March 2020, according to U.K. Home Office data. That compares with around 7% of cases for crime more generally. About 40% of rape cases are closed because the alleged victim doesn’t want to press charges.
The former investment banker said previously that after learning that prosecutors were considering ending the case, the trial felt like “a victory in itself.”
But Odey’s lawyer, Crispin Aylett, said that the banker had “bent the will” of the Crown Prosecution Service. “This has become effectively a private prosecution.”
“Nobody suggests” that the complainant “is doing this for the money. She has explained her so-to-speak hashtag motivation.”
The CPS said it respected the decision of the judge.
“The function of the Crown Prosecution Service is not to decide whether a person is guilty of a criminal offense, but to make fair, independent and objective assessments about whether it is appropriate to present charges to a court,” it said in a statement.
The woman alleged that Odey had abused his position as a significant client of the investment bank and invited her home while his pregnant wife was away. “This was just designed to take advantage of me. He just saw me as a thing, not a person,” she told police.
Odey said he had propositioned the woman, telling her he hoped that the evening may end up with them in bed together, but he never touched her.
By the end of the three-day trial, even the prosecutors had accepted the difficulties in the case.
“This comes down to the accounts of the two people,” said Kerry Broome, the prosecuting lawyer. “They are the only two people present. They’re the only two that know what happened.”
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