Ex-MP appears at High Court widow's sex abuse trial

Lavinia Nourse, 77, of The Severals, Newmarket, arrives at Knights Chamber, Peterborough Cathedral V

Lavinia Nourse, 77, of The Severals, Newmarket, arrives at court in Peterborough - Credit: Jacob King/PA Wire

Former foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind has given evidence as a character witness in the historic sex abuse trial of Suffolk's Lady Lavinia Nourse.

The widow of High Court judge Sir Martin Nourse, who died in 2017 aged 85, Lady Lavinia is currently on trial at Peterborough's Nightingale court at the city's cathedral.

The 77-year-old, of The Severals, Newmarket, denies 17 counts of sexually abusing a boy under the age of 12 in the 1980s. 

All of the charges relate to the same male complainant and are five counts of indecently assaulting a boy and 12 counts of indecency with a child.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind and historian Simon Heffer were called as character witnesses as part of the defence case on Monday.

Professor Heffer said he regarded Lady Lavinia as one of his closest friends and a person he considered as being of "complete integrity".

Sir Malcolm, who served under the Conservative governments of Margaret Thatcher and John Major, said he got to know Lady Lavinia and Sir Martin in the late 1990s.

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Asked by defence barrister Jonathan Caplan QC to describe her character, he said: “I always found her very sociable and very gregarious.

“I was aware she herself had had her own career.

“She wasn’t simply what would have been called in the olden days a housewife.

“She had opinions, she was articulate, she was fun.”

Governor of Chelmsford prison, Gary Newnes, who was also called, said he got to know Lady Lavinia while she was part of the Independent Monitoring Board working group for HMP Highpoint, near Stadishall, where he had previously worked.

He described her as “charming, engaging, extremely sincere, caring and refreshingly honest”, adding: “She’s also extremely witty.”

The trial continues.

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