United Kingdom

Sir Malcolm Rifkind gives evidence in trial of Court of Appeal judge's widow accused of sexual abuse

The widow of a former Court of Appeal judge who is on trial for alleged historic sex offences has been described as 'very gregarious' by former foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind. 

Sir Malcolm gave evidence in a temporary Nightingale court at Peterborough Cathedral, Cambridgeshire, on behalf of Lady Lavinia Nourse who is accused of repeatedly sexually abusing a boy in the 1980s with the knowledge of her late husband, Sir Martin Nourse. 

She has denied five counts of indecently assaulting a boy and 12 counts of indecency with a child between 1981 and 1990. 

Lady Lavinia Nourse is accused of repeatedly sexually abusing a boy in the 1980s with the knowledge of her late husband, Sir Martin Nourse.

The court heard that Sir Malcolm, 74, and his late wife had gotten to know the Nourses some time between 1997 and 1999. 

The friendship was struck after Sir Malcolm served as a Cabinet minister under Margaret Thatcher and John Major, before going on to serve as defence secretary from 1992 to 1995, and foreign secretary between 1995 and 1997.  

 'We met them socially and we enjoyed each other's company,' he told the court. 

'When my late wife and I were driving to Scotland or on the way back we would quite often stay with them. Our home was outside Edinburgh and they would often stop over on their way back from holidays in Scotland.

Sir Malcolm, 74,  (pictured) and his late wife had gotten to know the Nourses some time between 1997 and 1999.

'We saw them three or four times a year. It varied from year to year and according to other factors.' 

Sir Malcom, a barrister at the Scottish bar, said he spoke more with Sir Martin, a former Lord Justice of Appeal, when staying with the couple, but said that he found Lady Nourse to be 'very sociable' and 'very gregarious'. 

Lady Lavinia, from Newmarket, Suffolk, was married to Sir Martin Nourse (pictured), who died in 2017 aged 85

'I was aware that she herself had her own career. She wasn't simply what would have been called in the olden days a housewife,' he said. 

'She had opinions and was articulate and fun and very sociable.

'Sir Martin was not only a judge with all that implies. He was pretty traditional. He came across as a bit old fashioned and traditional. He came across as a man of the highest integrity.

'He had the highest standards of personal integrity and also what he hoped for and expected in other people. He wasn't tactile in the sense of hugging and kissing. I think he had a great love for his family.'

Describing the Nourses as being a 'very close' couple, he added: 'He expected high standards from his own family as well as everyone else he came into contact with.'

He told the court that he last saw the couple shortly before Sir Martin died, aged 85, in November 2017.   

Last week, the court heard that Nourse had been seen carrying out a sex act on the boy on two separate occasions and had told Sir Martin what she had seen. 

The witness claimed that Sir Martin told her that he would 'deal with it' on each occasion, and that he was aware of the abuse and had 'turned the other way.'  

Journalist and historian Simon Heffer, a former deputy editor of the Spectator and Daily Telegraph, also appeared in court as a character witness, having known the couple for 25 years. 

He told the court he would meet the couple 'at least half a dozen times a year', which also included shooting days with Sir Martin. 

Journalist and historian Simon Heffer, a former deputy editor of the Spectator and Daily Telegraph, has also appeared in court as a character witness 

'I regard Lady Nourse as one of my closest friends,' he said. 'I have known her for 25 years She is a person I regard of being of complete integrity and probity who is very loyal to her friends. That is why I wanted to come here today.

'Sir Martin was one of the most upright people I have met in my life. He took his responsibilities as a very senior judge very seriously. He had a cast iron belief in justice. He absolutely believed in the rule of law and in doing things properly.' 

'We have seen more of Lady Nourse since her husband's death. She was utterly stricken by his death. She was quite often distraught. I remember at his funeral she was not far off prostrate with grief. She was in a hell of a state after being widowed after a long and happy marriage.' 

 'I have no doubt that the devotion she showed to him in the good times was redoubled in the bad times before he died.'

The wife of disgraced Tory peer Jeffrey Archer (above, Mary Archer) gave evidence last week as  character witness for Nourse, saying she was one of her 'closest friends'

The wife of disgraced Tory peer Jeffrey Archer also gave evidence as a character witness for Nourse last Thursday, saying she was one of her 'closest friends'. 

Dame Mary Archer described her as 'kind hearted' and 'generous', a keen flower arranger and hostess who doted on her grandchildren. 

 Nourse has denied abusing the boy or being attracted to children, calling the claims 'completely repulsive.'

She has said the evidence from the witness who claimed to see the abuse happen as 'an impossible scenario' and 'just not true.' 

She told the court last week that her accuser 'is most definitely lying' and was 'very psychologically disturbed.'

When asked in court why she had used the word 'blackmail' when she was confronted about the alleged abuse, she claimed the victim was 'making demands' of her and that 'it seemed like it was to do with money.'  

Nourse also admitted that she had been involved in a shoplifting incident at Harrods in the 1980s while suffering from depression. 

The trial continues.  

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