Jury takes less than three hours to find cider maker guilty of rape

A CIDER maker found guilty of rape in less than three hours was branded “arrogant” by the judge.

Former Circle Cider boss Nicholas Howard had initially confessed to raping the woman when he was quizzed by detectives in March 2019 – also admitting the assault to a long-time friend.

But the 38-year-old later rowed back on that confession, suggesting he had not fully understood the law and was in a poor state of mind when he was interviewed by police.

Jurors took around two-and-a-half hours to reach their unanimous guilty verdict.

Refusing Howard bail, Judge Jason Taylor QC compared the defendant to his victim, whose voice had broken with emotion as she gave evidence to jurors on Monday.

“Having observed both of you carefully throughout the trial, her brokenness was in stark contrast your arrogance and her closure will begin today. You will be remanded in custody and you will receive a custodial sentence next Wednesday,” Judge Taylor said.

Rape

During the three-day trial, the jury heard that Howard had been in bed with his victim. He had raped her despite her repeated requests for him to stop.

The woman was said to have confronted him about the rape. She said he told her he would hand himself into the police station if it would make her feel better.

Howard was said to have later confessed to a friend that he had raped the woman. The friend said the man had appeared cold and passive as he made the admission, possibly telling him: “If I hang for it, I hang for it.” Under cross-examination the friend said the allegations didn’t sit easily with the person he knew.

His victim did not go to police at first. It was only after attending the sexual assault referral centre that she spoke to detectives about the ordeal.

Her attacker was interviewed in early March, voluntarily attending Gablecross police station and answering officers’ questions without a lawyer present. He appeared to admit to raping the woman, He told detectives: “We started having sex. I asked her to look at me. She said she didn’t want to, I don’t like it, at which point I didn’t stop.” That constituted rape, he admitted.

By the autumn, when he was re-interviewed, he gave a different account. He said he’d been looking at the definition of rape on the Crown Prosecution Service’s website and no longer believed that he had raped the woman.

‘Nonsense’

That claim was labelled nonsense by prosecutor David Scutt. In his closing speech to the jury, Mr Scutt accused Howard of arrogance, suggesting the man had not believed his victim would take the matter through to trial.

He said: “In law ‘I’ve started so I’ll finish’ is not a defence. [In Howard’s] second interview it may appear that was what he was trying to say.”

The prosecutor noted that Howard had not advanced that explanation during the trial.

“Even he realises that’s not going to work. In law you do not get a let-off – a bye for your first offence. In law, rape is rape. You, as jurors, must apply the law. It is as simple as that.”

Defence

Defending, Christopher Simmons pointed to inconsistences in the victim’s account, suggesting she had given different descriptions of what had happened to different friends. He accused her of being manipulative.

Addressing the sticking point of his client’s confession, he compared the defendant to a man who walks into Great Western Hospital and tells a surgeon he requires open heart surgery after diagnosing himself – only to question that self-diagnosis months later when he was about to go under the knife. You wouldn’t think they were in their right mind, Mr Simmons said, just as his client had not been in his right mind when he made his confession.

The barrister told jurors they needed to be sure of the prosecution’s case before they convicted his client. “It’s not a beauty contest, members of the jury, it’s not ‘I prefer her to him’ or ‘I prefer what she said against what he said’. You will, I know, bear in mind the burden and standard of proof.”

The defendant was of previous good character.

Sentence

Howard, of Faringdon Road, Swindon, will be sentenced on Wednesday, December 23. He was warned to expect a lengthy period in prison.

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