The trial of former TV weatherman Fred Talbot resumed at Manchester Minshull Street Crown Court this morning. He is accused of sexually abusing five schoolboys in his previous teaching career between the late 1960s and early 1980s. Mr Talbot denies all 10 counts of indecent assault against the teenage boys.
Defending Mr Talbot, Miss Suzanne Goddard QC began her closing speech to the jury this morning by highlighting that the ex-TV presenter’s career is over, whatever the result, especially since his admittance of “consensual sexual contact” with sixth-formers. She also mentioned that Mr Talbot is “a man with no previous convictions” who has “led a life as a successful, hardworking television presenter, managing to maintain a career spanning some 38 years” since leaving Altrincham Grammar School for boys in 1984.
“There’s no suggestion of him meeting young fans in hotel rooms or make-up rooms at television centres or anything like that”, the jury was later told.
The barrister asked the jury to “remember how difficult it must be for someone to defend themselves against such serious charges from so long ago under the pressure of the withering and relentless cross-examination by Mr Usher [the prosecutor].”
Miss Goddard then asked why, if a sexual ‘code’ existed in Mr Talbot’s diaries that revealed his abuse of the accusers as the prosecution suggests, he didn’t destroy them when first questioned by police in 1992.
The defence QC then asked the jury to look carefully at the evidence and consider whether or not it can be relied upon. One of the accusers claims that upon visiting Mr Talbot in his home in Altrincham, he saw “a pornographic magazine” in the house. However, a defence witness who went to the same house says there was only an “explicit pen-drawing” on one of the fixtures of the house.
She went on to use the example of the alleged “staged orgy” on a school barge trip that Mr Talbot is said to have instigated and taken part in, with boys as young as 11 “rolling around naked”. In the two-year police investigation “the orgy is unsupported by any other witness”, the jury heard.
Miss Goddard said that the witness’s account is “littered with glaring inconsistencies”. The witness also admitted lying to the police that Mr Talbot had raped him on one of the numerous visits he made to police – a fact which Miss Goddard says calls into question the “accuracy and reliability” of his evidence.
Another witness was labelled as “totally confused” as he could not even remember if he went on “one or two” barge trips. He claims he was sexually abused by Mr Talbot on a boat. The witness also claimed he visited Mr Talbot’s home which he described as a “red-brick house”. However, the period in question places Mr Talbot living somewhere else which fits none of the complainant’s descriptions.
The barrister asked the jury how such evidence can “help you to be sure about the sexual activity when it’s surrounded by so many inconsistencies?”
“Hardly the systematic abuser”
When he was in the witness box giving evidence Mr Talbot admitted to resigning from Altrincham Grammar School for boys in 1984 having made an inappropriate proposal to two 14-year old boys at an astronomy lesson in his home. The former teacher says he intended it as a joke but will regret that “30 second moment” for the rest of his life; he reflected upon it as a “stupid mistake”.
The first time he was asked by the police in 1992 why he had resigned, he lied, the jury heard.
Miss Goddard said Mr Talbot “panicked” and was “embarrassed…The whole of his burgeoning TV career would be on the line.”
The jury was told that the fact he let police into his home to “search his premises” “hardly fits with a man who systematically abused boys over ten years.”
She also warned of the dangers of “dipping into his diaries” to search for clues so many years on. Furthermore, “Mr Talbot didn’t have to give evidence in court. He could have stayed in the dock, folded his arms and avoided aggressive cross-examination”, she told the jury.
Closing her speech, she said that the defence does not have to make you believe that Mr Talbot is not guilty. It is for “the prosecution to show that the witnesses and evidence given is reliable, truthful and accurate.”
As the trial reaches its final stages, Judge Timothy Mort began summarising the case this afternoon and will conclude tomorrow morning.
We will continue updating you until the jury retires to consider the verdict.
TNT News Yasin Chinembiri