Rothbury indecent assaults trial: Day 9, afternoon

The barrister defending a former Rothbury teacher accused of indecently assaulting schoolgirls said the alleged victims are ‘unreliable witnesses’ in a case where ‘it’s word against word’.

Joseph Kinnear, 59, of East Newtown Cottages, is standing trial at Newcastle Crown Court after pleading not guilty to 14 counts of indecent assault dating back to between 1975 and 1982.

At the time, Kinnear was a teacher at Dr Thomlinson’s Middle School in Rothbury and Beaumont Middle School in Hexham.

This afternoon as he concluded his closing statement, Mark Barlow, defending, highlighted aspects that he says show that the alleged victims’ accounts are inconsistent.

One had admitted lying on oath during the first trial in 2006 when Kinnear was convicted of similar offences and sent to prison.

Mr Barlow said she was ‘trying to prevent Mr Kinnear being granted parole and trying to stop him coming home to his family’. When he was released, she wanted to stop him returning to Rothbury.

“The only way it could be done was to make fresh allegations,” he added. “Allegations like these are easy to make, but difficult to refute.”

The alleged victim’s reason for lying, she told the jury, was that she couldn’t bring herself to tell the full extent of abuse she suffered.

But Mr Barlow said: “Parents love their children unconditionally and are there to support them regardless of whether they are right or wrong. It doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.

“She changes her story at a whim when she’s caught out, because she’s right and everyone else is wrong.”

He also asked the jury why the alleged victim would send her daughter to the school where Kinnear was still teaching.

The fact that two of the witnesses know each other and may have shared details ‘raises a fundamental question about the independence of the evidence’, said Mr Barlow, although both told the court that they hadn’t spoken to each other from childhood until after they had given statements to the police.

This morning, Michael Hodson, prosecuting, said that there is a clear reason why the defence is trying to claim the evidence is ‘contaminated’.

“He (Kinnear) has no evidence other than saying it didn’t happen,” he said.

He also pointed out that another of the alleged victims only came to the attention of police because of a statement made by a witness in Surrey.

This witness came forward, Mr Hodson said, because she had a brain tumour and ‘was settling her affairs, achieving peace of mind’. Due to her illness, this witness was unable to give evidence in court or be cross-examined by the defence though.

However, Mr Barlow said that this ‘independent’ alleged victim had heard about the fresh allegations against Kinnear from her sister, who in turn heard it from one of two other women, neither of whom had been spoken to by the police. “Who has been speaking to who? he asked.

The trial continues tomorrow when it is expected that the jury will retire to consider the verdicts.