TV star Justin Lee Collins guilty of harassing ex-partner
TV presenter Justin Lee Collins has been found guilty of harassing his former partner, Anna Larke.
A jury at St Albans Crown Court heard that the 38-year-old subjected the video games public relations worker to sustained emotional and domestic abuse during their seven-month relationship, and made her write down all her previous sexual encounters regardless of how graphic.
The court was told that Collins made her sleep facing him, throw away DVDs because they featured actors she found attractive and made death threats against her.
Bearded, long-haired Collins, who appeared in court wearing a shirt, black blazer and jeans, did not show any emotion as the verdict was announced.
During the trial, the jury heard that Collins, who made a name for himself as a host on Channel 4's The Friday Night Project, was a controlling, jealous boyfriend who assaulted Ms Larke.
The court was told he made her write down every sexual encounter she had ever had and stopped her using social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter after reading her messages.
Jurors were played a secret recording she made of him verbally abusing her during a row, in which he called her a "f****** slag", a "dirty vile whore", and a "f****** sex addict".
He said the recording showed him at his worst but denied all her other claims.
He told the court he had never attacked her in any way and had never hit anyone in his life.
Collins said he had only ever slapped Ms Larke to calm her down when she was self-harming, which he claimed she did, once gouging her wrists and threatening to kill herself.
Ms Larke claimed Collins attacked her in a hotel room in Miami in March last year.
Giving evidence to the court, Ms Larke said she had not shown her doctor her bruises because she did not want to get Collins into trouble.
"I didn't want to do it to Justin. He was the love of my life," she said.
Speaking from behind a screen, the recovering alcoholic described being terrified about Collins returning from a trip to Las Vegas because she had failed to attend one of two AA meetings which she had told him she would attend.
"I remember his ringing me and shouting abuse down the phone to me. I was petrified about him coming back. Absolutely petrified," she said.
Judge John Plumstead sentenced Collins to carry out 140 hours’ unpaid work within the next 18 months and he was also ordered to pay £3,500 in prosecution costs.
One juror was discharged late yesterday after eight hours of deliberations with the 11 remaining jurors deliberating for a further three hours and 46 minutes today after being given a majority direction by the judge.
Collins, of Kew, south west London, had claimed his seven-month relationship with Ms Larke, also 38, was "absolute hell".
"I thought she loved me and was crazy about me," he said. "But it turned out only the second part was true."
He said Ms Larke, who moved in with him in January last year, was obsessive, jealous and possessive and would send him a "barrage" of text messages wanting to know where he was and who he was with.
The pair met when he hosted the Golden Joysticks Awards in 2006, and began an affair in 2007 to 2008 before splitting up.
The relationship resumed at the end of 2010 after the defendant's marriage to his wife Karen, the mother of his sons Archie, seven, and Harvey, four, broke down.
Collins and Ms Larke lived together from January to July last year in a deeply troubled relationship as she tried to overcome alcoholism, the court heard.
Ms Larke alleged Collins made her write down all her previous sexual encounters regardless of how graphic.
But he told the court he did not want to write the details down but Ms Larke dictated them to him and he believed it may have been a form of catharsis for her.
He claimed that it was she who was the jealous one, and when his appearance in the West End production of Rock of Ages was announced last year, she immediately accused him of having an affair with fellow performers.
Ms Larke was described as a "fantasist", with the court hearing she bombarded him with text messages declaring her love for him and questioning him about other women after she had left him.
Ms Larke's family released a statement describing their relief at the verdict.
It said: "We are absolutely ecstatic with the verdict and are relieved the jury were able to see through the lies of an abuser.
"We will not rest on our laurels in the wake of this good news and intend to go out into the world and use this experience to empower women to stand up to domestic abuse.
"We will also be campaigning to have emotional abuse properly recognised in law and do our utmost to end the much reported culture of celebrities using their positions to abuse people without fear of reprisal.
"We are overwhelmed by the messages from people, inspired by Anna's experience, who have left their abusive relationship.
"We hope this experience will empower others to do the same."
Sentencing Collins, the judge told him: "This is humbling work for somebody who lives a prominent public life but the very humility that the manual work should induce will make you pause and think about what you have done.
"You've had a successful career and led up to this time a decent life.
"It would have been very much to your credit if you had had the courage to admit your violence against Ms Larke and for that you will pay the price."
The judge described Ms Larke as a "vulnerable woman" and said Collins' crime was a "very serious matter".
He added: "It's serious because any violence in any relationship when people should be able to rely on each other is a serious breach of trust."
Collins walked out of court and got into a waiting car without speaking to reporters. A spokesman for Collins later said: "Justin is extremely disappointed by the verdict. He will consider his position with his lawyers."
After the case, Detective Inspector Justine Jenkins, who led the investigation for Hertfordshire Constabulary, said she hoped the "outcome serves as a warning to anyone who thinks it is OK to treat another person in this manner.
"The victim was extremely brave in coming forward to report the offences inflicted upon her. I would urge anyone who is or has been in a similar situation to get in contact with police as soon as possible. I can reassure you that you will be taken seriously and treated with sensitivity."
Baljit Ubhey, of the Crown Prosecution Service, said: "There was clear evidence in this case that the defendant had subjected the complainant to physical, psychological and verbal abuse during the course of their relationship.
"A unique feature of this case is the presence of voice recordings of some of the abuse, which supported the allegation. The jury's guilty verdict after a two-week trial at St Albans Crown Court confirms that victims of domestic abuse have a voice and it will be heard."