I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Court! Last week was an eventful one when it came to celebrity court cases. On Wednesday, the judgment in Ed Sheeran’s High Court case was pronounced. On Friday, the verdicts came in for Boris Becker’s Crown Court trial and Dizzee Rascal was sentenced for assault.
On Friday 8th April, at Southwark Crown Court, Boris Becker was found guilty of 4 offences under the Insolvency Act. The jury acquitted him of a further 20 charges. The allegations against Mr Becker were that he acted dishonestly in hiding, or failing to handover, various assets when he was declared bankrupt in 2017. The defence case was that he was not dishonest, rather, since becoming famous at a young age, he was hopeless with money and heavily reliant on numerous advisors who managed his life chaotically. His defence counsel told the jury that he was “too trusting and reliant” on the advice of those advisors, but there was also an element of him burying his head in the sand when it came to financial matters.
Mr Becker will return to court on 29th April to be sentenced.
On Friday 8th April, at Croydon Magistrates’ Court, Dylan Mills (better known as Dizzee Rascal) was sentenced to a 24-week curfew and given a one-year restraining order. He had been found guilty of assaulting his former fiancée, Cassandra Jones, after a trial at Wimbledon Magistrates’ Court in March. The prosecution alleged that Mr Mills had physically assaulted Ms Jones, whereas Mr Mills said in a prepared statement given to the police that Ms Jones had assaulted him. When announcing the guilty verdict, District Judge Polly Gledhill stated she found that Mr Mills had lost his temper, was abusive and aggressive and assaulted Ms Jones as outlined by the prosecution.
On Wednesday 6th April, Mr Justice Zacaroli gave his judgment in the High Court case brought by Ed Sheeran and his co-writers, finding that, in creating the 2017 global hit Shape of You, they had not infringed copyright in a 2015 song called Oh Why written by Sami Chokri and Ross O’Donoghue. The full judgment can be read here.
The central issue in the case was whether Ed Sheeran had copied (deliberately or subconsciously) the chorus from Oh Why. On that point, the judge found Ed Sheeran’s evidence, that he had neither heard nor copied Oh Why, to be honest and credible. In his judgment, the judge stated “I conclude that Mr Sheeran had not heard Oh Why and in any event that he did not deliberately copy the… Hook”, and “I am satisfied that Mr Sheeran did not subconsciously copy Oh Why…”
According to some reports of the 11-day hearing, Ed Sheeran was sometimes abrupt and terse as a witness. At one point during his evidence, he even became irritated with his own lawyers, when an extract of an unreleased song was accidentally played in court.
It’s perhaps unsurprising that over the course of nearly two days of being cross-examined, there were instances where his annoyance showed, given that defence counsel accused him of habitual plagiarism, being an “obsessive music squirrel” and a “magpie” who deliberately copies and conceals other songwriters’ works. That said, over the course of those 2 days, Mr Sheeran maintained his composure under cross-examination and was able to get his points across. He was questioned in minute detail on events during one collaborative recording session 5 years ago, when he and his co-writers created Shape of You and he was also cross-examined on the song writing process for Photograph, which took place 10 years ago. Mr Sheeran was able to provide context in some of his responses, an example being when he said “you are asking me to remember like really, really tiny specific details of things that were not important at the time.”
Overall, he was a reliable witness, with the judge finding “…Mr Sheeran presented his evidence straightforwardly and honestly, in an attempt to assist the court.” As a witness, that is exactly what you should aim to do.
By Saqib Rauf, Veritas Witness Training
11th April 2022
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