In one of the most preposterous cases to make it before the courts in recent years, Gayle Newland has been found guilty.
Newland was accused by a woman of pretending to be a man in order to have sex with her.
Well, OK, I'm sure that happens sometimes. People are dishonest and horny.
But Newland didn't wear a disguise. She simply insisted that the woman wear a blindfold during sex.
OK, well, that could be doable, I suppose. People are into some weird stuff — not that wearing a blindfold during sex is particularly weird, but never seeing your sexual partner when you're not having sex is fucking strange. But, you know, maybe during a one-night stand, arranged via some Web service....
But no, this wasn't a one-off. Newland is accused of keeping this up for two years. Two years
. Her "victim" claims to have maintained a two-year-long sexual relationship with a person she had never ever seen.
So we're now well into the territory of the "victim" being stupid by the standards of stupid, but, to be fair, that shouldn't and doesn't disqualify her from the protection of the law. As I said, people are dishonest and horny. Maybe an unscrupulous predator could take advantage of a woman who wanted a regular long-term partner for anonymous blindfolded sex. I'm sure there are some people who do want exactly that, even if I never managed to find any of them.
But it's not that either. It wasn't just sex; it was also companionship, like in a proper relationship. They were engaged
. We're now talking about a woman who got engaged to be married to a person she had never ever seen, but had had sex with. And she also knew Newland socially, as a woman — with the blindfold off, they were friends. So she knew Newland's voice. Yet claims that, for two years
, she never noticed that her fiance had the same voice as her friend. She claims that Newland disguised her voice. A stranger could get away with that, certainly; a woman could do a deep masculine voice and convincingly pretend to be a man. But a friend? If a female friend of yours — someone you'd known for a couple of years — did a male voice at you, would you actually not recognise her? Not just once, but again and again, in person and on the phone and during sex, for years?
And we haven't even reached the insane bit yet.
They watched TV together.
The "victim" sat and watched TV. WITH A FUCKING BLINDFOLD ON.
Nigel Power QC, representing Ms Newland, said to the other woman: "... it is not normal to spend hours in your flat with your boyfriend watching television when you cannot see what it is on the screen."
She replied: "For us, that was what was normal. In hindsight I wish I had ripped that mask off sooner."
Newland reacted to the accusations, quite rightly, with sheer incredulity:
[Mr Corbett-Jones, prosecuting,] said: "She believed you were a man."
Ms Newland said: "Why would she believe that? She is an intelligent young woman, very very intelligent."
Mr Corbett-Jones replied: "Because you told her. You told her repeatedly over a period of two years."
Ms Newland said: "So she wore a blindfold the complete time. Really? Really? Is that what people do because I have not heard of that?
"And don't get me wrong, I'm not the most normal of people but I have never heard of that."
Aside from the say-so of her "victim", the real corroborable evidence against Miss Newland is, firstly, that she maintained a fake man's Facebook page in the not-at-all-fictitious-sounding name of Kye Fortune. Newland claims that she used the page in order to meet women in the first place, but would then, upon meeting them in real life, reveal that she was a woman. Since even the prosecution don't claim that she ever wore a disguise, and since she, you know, looks like an actual woman because she is one
, this just does not sound all that unlikely. Certainly not when compared to the prosecution's story.
Secondly, after the couple's break-up — which the "victim" claims happened when she whipped off her blindfold during sex and discovered that Kye Fortune was actually Gayle Newland — Newland sent this text message:
I am sorry I said lies to hide lies but I did not lie about everything. It was me and still is.
That message would fit in with the prosecution's story, admittedly. But it would also fit perfectly well with dozens of other stories. It doesn't say what the lies are about. It's the sort of think people say to each other after break-ups. It's hardly damning.
Nigel Power QC, defending, ... said: "The deception as described is incredible, incapable of belief. It is impossible to believe."
Mr Power told the jury that it was being asked to believe that a bright young woman spent more than 100 hours in her company but never suspected it was her friend.
... Mr Power added: "We suggest that gut instinct, human experience, common sense and careful analysis all lead to the same conclusion - of course she knew."
But the jury at Chester Crown Court — a jury presumably devoid of gut instinct, human experience, and common sense, and incapable of careful analysis — a jury, one can only conclude, composed entirely of tongue-dragging, counting-to-three-on-their-thumbs fuckwits — somehow found Newland guilty.
It could have happened. The case, as presented by the prosecution, is possible. But it's vanishingly unlikely. I'm not one of those extremists who insists that witness testimony isn't evidence. It is. But it should be convincing. It should be combined with other evidence — at the very least, with the testimony of another witness. We're not supposed to convict people as criminals on the basis of one person's frankly fantastic say-so.
I support the jury system. But there is always a risk of stupid or gullible juries. It happens. But, to be fair to this jury, stupid though they do seem to have been, they should never have seen this case. The Crown Prosecution Service, currently congratulating themselves on a job well done, should be hanging their heads in shame over this. They're supposed to be exercising some judgement over which cases to take to court. And this case should have been filed with the complaints about nuclear alien mind-control lizards.
Newland shouted: "How can you send me down for something I have not done?"
She broke down in tears and repeatedly said "I don't understand, I don't understand", after the verdict was returned.