Jury in choir member abuse case is told victim ‘is in it for the compensation’

THERE was high court drama after a former choirboy’s account of being sexually abused by an adult choir member was thrown into doubt after it emerged the alleged victim was seeking compensation.

Thursday, 2nd May 2019, 7:00 am
Updated Thursday, 2nd May 2019, 8:26 am

The alleged victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was hastily recalled to give evidence on oath at Portsmouth Crown Court after details came to light of him instructing city firm Verisona Law for a compensation claim against 70-year-old defendant Stuart Eager.Eager, of Lady Lane, Blunsdon, Swindon, has denied three counts of historical indecent assaults from the 1980s on a boy aged 11 to 12 years old at his trial.

The adult male said his life had been ‘messed up’ for more than three decades after alleged abuse including an occasion at Budds Farm on the way home from choir practice from a church in Havant.

Eager, who is accused of putting his hand down the then boy’s pants and getting him to sit on his lap, rejected the allegations to jurors.

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Stuart Eager (020119-1)
Stuart Eager (020119-1)

With the trial set for closing submissions, dramatic new details were suddenly aired by police who revealed the victim had instructed Verisona Law over an unknown compensation claim against Eager and the church - throwing into question the victim’s motivation for making the allegations.

It also transpired that a member of the firm had been sat in the public gallery at court taking notes.

After the alleged victim was brought back to court, Nadia Chbat, defending, ripped into him over his motivation for making the claims.

Asked if he had looked at compensation he could receive, the man said ‘no’.

Ms Chbat responded: ‘You didn’t know there was significant monetary value involved with compensation in such cases ranging from £8,000 to £80,000?’

The male hit back: ‘I could have just gone down the civil route and put aside (the criminal case) and saved myself two years of stress but this is more important. I’m not hiding anything.

‘If it was about money then I wouldn’t be here. It is about closure and acknowledgement of what he did. The civil claim has been put to one side for now.’

Responding to questions why a representative from the law firm was in court, he said: ‘He was only here so I didn’t have to go through the whole thing with them. It was the firm’s decision to be here.’

He also denied withholding the representative’s identity to police at court.

Asked why he hadn’t told police about seeking compensation, the man said: ‘It’s not part of this investigation.’

Ms Chbat said: ‘I suggest the point of you making the allegations is compensation. And you kept all this quiet so you wouldn’t be tainted in front of the jury.’

In summing up, she added: ‘We have found out there are potentially thousands of pounds worth of reasons why the case has been brought.’

But prosecutor Timothy Horder said in his closing speech how the evidence against the former law firm partner could only lead to one conclusion.

‘He has shown he has a tendency to act in a certain way towards young boys,’ he said.

Referring to Eager’s previous convictions for similar offences of abusing young boys at a church in Wymering in the 1980s, Mr Horder added: ‘It that was an experiment, as he claims, then why did it happen more than once?’

The jury have now retired to consider their verdict.