Northern Ireland

Closing speeches in trial of Dana's brother John Brown

John Brown
Image caption John Brown denies five charges of abuse against two girls in the 1970s

The prosecution and defence have begun their closing speeches in the final stages of the trial of John Brown, the brother of Eurovision winner Dana.

Mr Brown, 60, from Bracknell, denies five charges of indecent assault against two young girls in the 1970s.

The trial, at Harrow Crown Court, is in its third week.

On Tuesday, the defence said the allegations were just an "absurd and surreal" attempt to support defamation claims against Dana Rosemary Scallon.

In his closing statements to the jury, a defence barrister said the prosecution's case against Mr Brown had at times resembled "an episode of Father Ted".

He said the claims have been fabricated by the victims and their families following bitter disputes over money and the ownership of a shared business interest.

The first alleged victim and her mother are suing Dana in Ireland for defamation after she stated the sex abuse claims were "malicious lies" during two television interviews in the middle of her 2011 presidential election campaign.

The barrister said the abuse claims were first raised in the USA in 2008, yet no formal complaint was made to British police until 2011, only days after lawyers became involved in the subsequent defamation case.

"It is 2011, Dana revives her political career and she is a visible and easy-to-hit target," he said.

"Does this just give you a little clue as to how this went? You can imagine how the discussions went with (their lawyer) about the defamation case. It wouldn't have a cat in hell's chance of succeeding if she hasn't reported it (the abuse) to the police.

"But if you play with fire you get burnt. And they (the first alleged victim and her family) have got their fingers very burnt and they found themselves in a position where they had no choice but to complain to the police."

He asked the jury to consider whether the second victim had been coerced into giving a false testimony by the family of the first victim, who he said went "trawling and fishing" for other witnesses to back up their claims.

The barrister said the first alleged victim and her mother flew over from America and "delivered" the second victim to the police.

He said: "It is an absurdity. My learned friend says that if this was some sort of Machiavellian plot then they've not done a very good job.

"But, ladies and gentlemen, you've seen the players. It has been like watching an episode of Father Ted at times.

"(The first alleged victim and her mother) accepted they had contacted [other people] to see if they had been abused. They were trawling, fishing for other victims."

The jury was reminded of a Christmas card sent by the mother of the first alleged victim to the defendant in 1977, that contained a photograph of the girl and her brother, years after she claims to have been told about the abuse.

He also took the jury through each count one-by-one, reminding them of the evidence that the defendant provided which the defence claims show he was never with the first or second victim at the time of the alleged offences.

He said: "He is interviewed in June 2012 and he's consistent with every single thing he has said. My learned friend cannot find a single thing he's said that is inaccurate.

"When he's brought back in a few months later and he's interviewed about the second victim, it is the same."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Dana rejected accusations that she had known about the alleged assaults

He concluded his speech by reminding the jury they must only convict Brown if the scales of justice tip wholly in the favour of the prosecution, something he suggested "just cannot be the case".

'Use common sense'

Earlier, the prosecution asked the jury to use their "common sense" and ask themselves whether the evidence given by the defence added up.

"These are two women [the alleged victims] with no real link between them. Both say this defendant sexually abused them when they were little," a prosecution barrister said.

"He says this is all a wicked conspiracy and all of the witnesses for the prosecution, if he is right, are part of this evil.

"I say the people who agreed to lie are the defence witnesses and it's not something sophisticated. It's simply a cover-up at a time when cover-ups happened. And it's very difficult for them now to come clean."

The barrister said it was suspicious that the defendants were "able to remember exactly what was going on, on particular dates at particular times".

She told the jury to be careful: "Is this a case of two people having their story and sticking to it?"

The prosecution said that Ms Scallon, who ran for the Irish presidency in 2011 and employed Mr Brown as her media liaison officer, had accepted in court that the allegations against her brother would destroy her political career.

On Monday, giving evidence, Ms Scallon denied having known about the alleged assaults and denied allegations she had helped to cover them up.

She also denied finding help for her brother from a priest, and later declaring that Mr Brown was cured and had been forgiven by God.

'Evidence about emotion'

There has been some confusion from alleged victims and witnesses concerning the specific dates and locations of the alleged indecent assaults more than 30 years ago.

The prosecution told the jury: "A small child isn't going to remember dates and times, they'll remember being scared and hurt, their evidence was about emotion."

Central to the prosecution's case is that the younger of the two alleged victims had been reluctant to give evidence, calling into question the defence's case that there was a conspiracy against Mr Brown.

The prosecution said: "If the defence are right, then this is a Machiavellian woman, but actually she didn't want to talk about this."

The judge will begin his summary on Wednesday, before the jury can begin their deliberations.

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