Justin Lee Collins Found Guilty

TV presenter Justin Lee Collins has been found guilty of harassing his former partner, following a trial at St Albans Crown Court.

Collins, 38, the former host of Channel 4's Friday Night Project and who has been performing in the West End hit, Rock of Ages, used a Pukka Pad notebook to list every sexual experience Anna Larke had with every one of her previous lovers.

Though he argued that his girlfriend had wanted to unburden herself, recovering alcoholic Ms Larke said she was forced into it - leaving her feeling 'horrible and disgusted'.

A jury at St Albans Crown Court took nearly twelve hours to find Collins guilty of the charge of harrassing Ms Larke, reaching a verdict on Tuesday 9 October 2012.

Judge John Plumstead sentenced him to an 18 month community order and told the comic he must carry out 140 hours of unpaid work.
In addition, long haired Collins was told  he must pay £3,500 costs towards the prosecution's costs.

Sentencing the comedian, Judge Plumstead told him:  "This is not a run of the mill case of domestic violence."

The judge said he believed the evidence of Collins' estranged wife, who had been called as a defence witness and who told the jury he was gentle and kind.

Judge Plumstead then told Collins:  "What happened between you and Ms Larke was genuinely out of character."

The judge then added:  "Nevertheless, this is a serious matter and any violence within a relationship where people should be able to rely on each other, is a breach of trust."

Telling the star that he didn't think a financial penalty would "meet the bill," he said he was going to order him to carry out unpaid work for the benefit of the community.

He said it would be "humble work" for the star, but he said "It's intended to make you pause and think about what you have done."

During the trial, the jury heard Ms Larke's ordeal was a part of a 9 month campaign of verbal, emotional and physical abuse by the former TV host, during which he slapped her across her 'private parts' and face, threw a Sat Nav at her and grabbed her hair.

During one incident while on holiday in Miami, a hotel worker rushed to their room after hearing Miss Larke's screams as Collins slapped her and pulled her to the floor.

Earlier Prosecutor Mr Peter Shaw told the court: "The relationship was characterised by this defendant exerting control over her, verbally abusing her and physically assaulting her."

He went on: "He engaged in a campaign of verbal and physical abuse against Ms Larke. He was very controlling of her and took a prurient interest in her past sexual history, which he then used again and again in arguments and assaults against her."

The jury of nine women and three men heard that to "control" the 38-year-old brunette, from Pirton near Hitchin in Herts, he forced her to close her Facebook, Twitter and email accounts once he had read all the messages.

She told the jury he told her not to sleep with her back against him and made her get rid of DVDs which featured actors she might find attractive.

Miss Larke told the court he swore at her, slapped her and pulled her hair as their stormy relationship began to demise.

The couple first met at the Golden Joystick Awards in 2006, which Collins was hosting and where Miss Larke was working. The public relations worker kept in touch with married Collins and a year later began an affair. The father-of-two broke off the illicit relationship after 18 months to save his marriage when news of his other infidelities were published in two Sunday newspapers. The two got back together in November 2010 and Collins' marriage to his wife Karen ended shortly afterwards. He moved to Kew in January 2011 and his new girlfriend moved in a month later.

The Bristol-born comic from High Park Road, Kew, had pleaded not guilty to harassment by causing Anna Larke fear of violence between 1 January and 1 August 2011 last year, during which he assaulted her and threatened her with violence.

Following the two-week trial, the jury were out considering their verdict over three days to find Collins guilty.

Ms Larke, who moved back to her parents' home in Welwyn Garden City, Herts, after the relationship ended had secretly recorded a row between them on her phone.

Extracts were played to the jury during the trial in which Ms Larke asked: "And you are denying you ever hit me?". He responded: "No I am not."

During a rant by Collins in which he used a tirade of offensive terms, he said to Ms Larke: "You bring out the f...... demon in me."

He called her a 'f...... slag', a 'dirty vile whore', and a 'f...... sex addict.'

Giving evidence, the star admitted he was ashamed by the clips.

Mr Collins claimed he had never assaulted her physically, other than slapping her cheek to calm her down when she had been self harming.

He said the "rant" was completely out of character and sounded "like someone else." He said that at that point he was in "meltdown" because the relationship was coming to an end.

His ex-wife Karen gave evidence on his behalf, describing him as a 'wonderful man'.

Their nine year relationship broke down at the end of 2010, but they had remained friends.

Judge Plumstead told the comedian Ms Larke had been a "vulnerable person."

The Judge said Collins had found it increasingly difficult to deal with the problems in their relationship and, more than once, had acted in a "violent way towards her."

Before he left the dock, the judge told Collins:  You had a successful career and had led up to this time a decent life."

The judge said it would have been to his credit had he found the courage to admit the offences.

After the case, Senior Investigating Officer, Detective Inspector Justine Jenkins, who led the investigation, said : "No-one should endure this sort of violent behaviour from anyone, least of all from someone with whom they have an intimate relationship. I hope the outcome serves as a warning to anyone who thinks it is ok to treat another person in this manner. The victim was extremely brave in coming forward to report the offences inflicted upon her."

Baljit Ubhey, Chief Crown Prosecutor for the Thames & Chiltern Crown Prosecution Service, said:  "There was clear evidence in this case that the defendant had subjected the complainant to physical, psychological and verbal abuse during the course of their relationship. A unique feature of this case is the presence of voice recordings of some of the abuse, which supported the allegation. Domestic abuse can include verbal and physical abuse.  Both can be equally serious and distressing to the victim.  Domestic abuse frequently happens behind closed doors, making cases difficult to prosecute as evidence often consists of one word against another. However, this should not deter victims from reporting incidents to the police.  It is important that incidents are recorded at the time they occur to give the police the best chance of securing evidence to support a prosecution."

Ms Larke's family released a statement describing their relief at the verdict.

It said: "We are absolutely ecstatic with the verdict and are relieved the jury were able to see through the lies of an abuser. We will not rest on our laurels in the wake of this good news and intend to go out into the world and use this experience to empower women to stand up to domestic abuse. We will also be campaigning to have emotional abuse properly recognised in law and do our utmost to end the much reported culture of celebrities using their positions to abuse people without fear of reprisal. We are overwhelmed by the messages from people, inspired by Anna's experience, who have left their abusive relationship. We hope this experience will empower others to do the same.''