Jurors trying police officer accused of rape warned about Sarah Everard case
Jurors trying a police officer charged with raping a woman have been warned not to allow publicity surrounding Sarah Everard’s murder to affect their judgment.
Judge Richard Mansell QC, the Recorder of Bradford, told the jury at Bradford Crown Court there was “no suggestion” that Ben Lister, a sergeant with West Yorkshire Police, abused his position as a police officer when he allegedly raped and sexually assaulted a woman after a night out.
Lister, 35, went on trial on Monday accused of one count of rape and one count of assault by penetration in August 2016.
Speaking to the jury before the opening of the trial, Judge Mansell said: “The defendant was, at the time of the alleged rape, a serving police officer. Now, I am sure you all know there has been a very high profile case recently, tried in London, involving a serving police officer called Wayne Couzens, who abused his position as a police officer.
“There’s no suggestion here that the defendant abused his position as a police officer in order to commit the offence, which he denies. The allegation of rape occurred on a night out.
“It has nothing to do with the fact he was a police officer at the time. You mustn’t let the publicity that is quite rightly surrounding the case of Sarah Everard and Wayne Couzens affect your judgment in any way, shape or form.”
Richard Woolfall, opening the case for the prosecution, told the jury that Lister and the woman were staying at the same house following a night out, during which they “consumed a large amount to drink”.
Mr Woolfall said: “It is the prosecution’s case that this defendant went on to take advantage of that young lady, who was very drunk.”
The court heard that Lister dragged the woman off a sofa while she was asleep before touching her sexually while she was drifting in and out of consciousness.
Mr Woolfall said the woman did not remember having sex with Lister, but recalled trying to push his fingers away from her vagina.
When she messaged him later to ask if they had sex, he lied and said they had not but they had engaged in some sexual activity, the court heard.
He later told police the woman was not so drunk that she did not know what was going on, was not asleep or unconscious and that everything that happened between them was consensual.
Mr Woolfall said: “The prosecution’s case was that at no point did she consent to sexual contact with him, for the bulk of it she wasn’t in any fit state to do so because of intoxication.”
The jury was told that the woman had a child as a result of the alleged rape and did not report the incident for around three-and-a-half years.
Mr Woolfall said she told a family member she was not sure she could go to the police as she believed they would “just take his side” and “look after their own”.
The woman went to the police in January 2020 and Lister was arrested and interviewed.
When he was told that the woman had become pregnant, he said he did not think the child could be his as he had withdrawn from her before ejaculating – but DNA tests later showed evidence that he was the father.
Lister denies both the charges.
The trial continues.