Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Pearce and Maestri trial - day 1

As a precaution, this article was removed after reference was made to it by the defence at the trial. I decided that although the judge took no action, I didn't want there to be be any possibility of a mistrial being caused by the blog, even though the jurors had been specifically enjoined not to look for details of the case on the Internet. It is now being restored in its original form.

The trial of Pearce and Maestri started today, a day late because a previous trial involving one of the lawyers overran.

Not that much happened today. Although no plea was formally heard from the defendants, it was clear that the "not guilty" plea they gave at the previous hearing was still applicable. So we have a trial.

There was a bit of discussion between the judge and the lawyers concerning questions to be put to the prospective jurors. The first was whether any of them had any previous connection with St. Benedict's School. The second question was whether any of the jurors had read in the papers or on the internet any article which made any mention of sexual abuse at St.Benedict's School. The third question was whether any juror had a connection with anybody on a list of names read out to them. (I can't list the names here as most of them are protected by court order, so it would be contempt of court to publish them.)

There was also a bit of discussion involving timetabling and logistics for the trial. The delay to the start has played havoc with the timetable, and one of the lawyers has also been called away to another case for a day. It was agreed that the hearings would be on 7-8 July, and 12-13 July, extending into the following day if it should be necessary.

So the jury was selected and sworn, and the charges were read out, and the judge gave them the usual stern warning against talking to people about the case, or doing their own research on the internet. He mentioned the recent case of a juror in Manchester who had done that and had been sent to jail as a result.

The charges against Maestri are three counts of indecent assault against a boy under the age of 16, all occurring between 1st September 1977 and 31st July 1978. Similarly, the charges against Pearce are three counts of indecent assault against a boy under the age of 16, all occurring between 1st September 1978 and 31st July 1979.

The prosecution opening statement briefly described the alleged assaults by Maestri, when the boy was in the 2nd year of the Middle school, how when he moved up to the upper school he confided in Pearce who allegedly promised to sort it out, but swore the boy to secrecy, and allegedly abused him again. The same boy is the victim in all 6 counts. His name is protected from publication by court order (not that I would want to give it anyway).

The prosecution barrister made it clear that the three charges each are specimen charges, that the prosecution intends to show a pattern of repeated abuse lasting through both academic years, Maestri in the first year and Pearce in the second.

Two other brief statements were read to the jury, describing the occasion of the arrest and caution of each of the defendants.

And with that, the jury was sent home and told to return in time for a 10.15 start on Thursday. 


  1. Thank you for the useful summary. There was a scribbler from "The Times" there as well so we'll see something in print as well.

  2. And to those who do not have first hand knowledge of these two gentlemen they sit behind glass screens looking for all the world like benign grandfathers who should be watching bowls or listening to Test Match Special.

  3. This is off-topic, but isn't it absurd to try and prevent the very people who should be best informed about the case in order to make an accurate decision from accessing any information which will help them do just that?

    Once we dismantle religion, we should turn our attention to the law. Lots of flagrant stupidity there too.

  4. If jurors aren't allowed to search the internet does that mean you can print anything about it here and you couldn't be accused of prejudicing the trial as they're not allowed to read it?

  5. 21:40
    That might be so, but I'm going to err on the side of caution in any case.

  6. "so we have a trial" what is this, some kind of american soap opera. "ladies and gentlemen, we have a trial, let's do it!"