Former cabinet minister gives evidence in Lady Lavinia Nourse abuse trial

Sir Malcolm Rifkind

Former cabinet minister Sir Malcolm Rifkind and historian and journalist Simon Heffer have given evidence at the trial of a Court of Appeal judge’s widow who is accused of historical sexual abuse.

Lady Lavinia Nourse, from Newmarket, was married to Sir Martin Nourse, who died in 2017 aged 85. The 77-year-old widow is on trial at Peterborough’s Nightingale court accused of abusing a boy in the 1980s.

Lavinia Nourse, 77, denies abusing a boy in the 1980s Credit: Jacob King/PA

Sir Malcolm and Professor Heffer were called to give evidence as character witnesses as part of the defence case on Monday (May 17th).

Professor Heffer, who was introduced to the court as former deputy editor of The Spectator and The Daily Telegraph, said Lady Lavinia is “a person I regard as being of complete integrity”.

He said that he first met the defendant at a New Year’s Eve party in Cambridgeshire. He told the court: “I regard Lady Nourse as one of my closest friends.

“I’ve known her for 25 years.”

He went on:

He said she was “utterly stricken by her husband’s death”.

Sir Malcolm, who was a cabinet minister under both Margaret Thatcher and John Major, said he got to know Lady Lavinia and Sir Martin in the late 1990s.

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

The defendant denies 17 counts of sexually abusing a boy under the age of 12.

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.

The trial continues.