ONE common feature of recent “celebrity” historic sex abuse cases, including those of Rolf Harris and Max Clifford, is that publicity prompted other victims to come forward enabling the prosecution to establish a pattern of predatory behaviour and assault.
But the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) has now been asked to consider a 35-year-old abuse case where the opposite has occurred.
Uday Joshi, a former off-spinner for Indian states and Sussex, was convicted two years ago by a majority verdict on three counts of sexually abusing a 13 year old when he was a coach and visiting cricketer at a club in Northern Ireland in 1979. Now aged 69, Joshi is serving six years in jail and protesting his innocence.
What sets Joshi’s case apart from other recent abuse trials is that it boiled down to his word against his sole accuser’s. None of the hundreds of youngsters he coached over the years in the UK or India, or indeed anyone else, has ever come forward claiming to be a victim. Instead, some have joined former England, Sussex and Indian cricketers, parents and teachers at schools and clubs where Joshi has coached, saying he had never shown even a hint of any inappropriate behaviour.
Of course dozens of good character references do not make Joshi innocent. They were not alibi witnesses or party to what went on between the coach and the young player back in 1979. But as the judge told the jurors, the fact that there was no suggestion of inappropriate behaviour anywhere, in any country (Joshi later moved to the US), apart from the allegations before them, meant Joshi was entitled to be given more than usual weight for his “good character”.
The crown’s case was that on two occasions in August 1979 Joshi buggered the child, and on one of those also performed oral sex at the boy’s grandmother’s house, where Joshi had lodged during that summer and the next, apparently without incident.
Although it was 19 years before the complainant went to the then Royal Ulster Constabulary, the prosecution said the claims were not something he had suddenly made up. The young cricketer had “made reports” to others in the intervening years – to a schoolfriend, to a girlfriend after she had told him she was an abuse victim, and subsequently to his psychotherapist.
The RUC, believing it needed corroboration, did not pursue the case and another 12 years passed. Police only launched a full investigation when the complainant (by then aged 44) made a second statement in November 2010 after learning that Joshi had been invited back to the cricket club in Northern Ireland.
In the meantime, the original police file had gone missing (only some typed statements remain); the officers involved had all retired and not been traced; the grandmother, a potentially crucial witness, in whose house the assaults were said to have occurred had died; and the cricket club match and coaching records, which may have provided alibi evidence for Joshi – or support for his accuser’s account – had been lost.
A postcard from the family
As the trial progressed it became clear Joshi’s accuser had given differing “reports” over the years of what had happened, and he was forced to admit in court that he had lied to both his friend, when he told him a year after the event that Joshi had made sexual advances to him but that he had beaten him off, and also later in accounts to his psychotherapist. He said he had been ashamed to admit the full extent of what had happened.
Doubt was also cast on the suggestion that the abuse occurred during the alleged two- to three-week period in August. Joshi produced a postcard written to him by the family at the time when they were out of the country on holiday. His 1979 diary showed only one day of coaching when it was claimed abuse happened during a week of holiday coaching.
However, the jurors decided by a majority to convict. They had been told by the prosecution counsel that while there were “identifiable concerns” about aspects of the accuser’s evidence, they were not fatal to the case.
A subsequent appeal failed. Joshi’s lawyers argued that in the face of the “lies” and inconsistencies, the trial judge should have withdrawn the case or, failing that, to have given the jury a formal warning to treat the complainant’s evidence with caution. The appeal court ruled that although the trial judge had “unease” about the case, she was right to leave matters as they were before the jury.
Now, however, lawyers acting for Joshi have submitted a dossier to the CCRC highlighting new evidence from a former club cricketer which it says “undermines the entire case”. It also argues that it was impossible for Joshi to receive a fair trial because of the now missing individuals and records. Watch this space.