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Jonathan King

by bobwoffinden on 8th May 2016 1 comment

Ten cases of wrongful conviction are analysed in The Nicholas Cases. One is the case of the pop music impresario, Jonathan King. Read the original article on the Mail Online.

A King in New York

In 2001, Jonathan King was put on trial in one of the very first of what has become a series of cases in which celebrities are prosecuted for historic sexual offences.

The five men who gave evidence against Jonathan alleged that he had assaulted them during the first half of the 1980s, some twenty years earlier.

The origins of the case can be traced back to a visit paid by one man to Max Clifford, the now-disgraced publicist. He wanted to sell a story about King. Clifford told the man that he had to go to Surrey police.

Inevitably, these events were in due course passed to the Sun newspaper and King was engulfed in a wave of hostile publicity.

Although the evidence of the original complainant was rejected and not proceeded with, the trial went ahead on the basis of testimony from others who came forward after the publicity.

As it happened, the trial went rather well for King. His defence team managed to show that virtually all of the allegations could not have happened when the complainants said they did. For instance, one of the men said he’d met King because he was a huge fan of his BBC2 television show, No Limits. But that couldn’t be right, the lawyers explained, because No Limits didn’t start until the following year.

Another said that King gave him a photograph showing him (King) with another ‘80s celebrity, Samantha Fox. This seemed unlikely in any event – why would King have given him, or anyone, a private photo like that? – but, in any event, the man claimed to have been given the picture in 1985, and Fox’s agent testified that the photo was not taken until 1989.

Another testified that he particularly remembered the blue door of King’s house. But although the door was certainly blue when the police raided the house in 2000, it had been white until 1999, as King was able to prove.

Then there was the matter of the mother’s diary. Giving evidence, one man said that King had approached him in 1984, when was 14. As his evidence began to be picked apart, he suddenly blurted out that this could be corroborated by his mother’s diary.

‘[My mother] kept a log of every time he phoned me’, he testified, ‘every time – the times I went there as well’.

By this stage, Surrey police had spent several months investigating the case. They had interviewed the witnesses at length and, presumably, would have put such basic questions as, ‘Is there any documentary evidence that might help to establish precisely when all this happened?’

So it is remarkable to report that, until this moment in the courtroom, no one involved in the case had any inkling of the existence of this diary.

The judge sanctioned an overnight 300-mile round-trip to retrieve this diary. Surrey police produced it in court the next day.

It did not bear out the man’s account. The meeting that, he’d told the Court, had happened in 1984 instead took place, according to the diary, in 1985.

Nevertheless, the judge now automatically that this freshly-produced evidence of the diary was bona fide. He said to the jury in his summing-up:

In due course, we obtained the diary and we do therefore know the dates and you have it, of course… [the man] did agree that it was possible that he did not meet King until 1985 and the diary confirms that this is so.

Leaving this evidence aside for the moment, the Crown had, during the trial, attempted to anchor the complainants’ testimony to particular exhibits or circumstances – like the Samantha Fox photograph, or the television programme, or the colour of the front door – but every time it was shown to be wrong.

As a result, the Crown asked the judge to change the dates on the indictment. Even though the evidence had by then been given, the judge gave his assent.

In its changed form, one charge on the indictment now read:

‘King, on a day between the 6th and 9th September 1985, attempted to commit buggery with…’

In his summing-up, the judge did point out to the jury some of the difficulties that King would have experienced in putting together a defence to such distant charges:

‘He cannot, for instance, say, ‘Well, that cannot be right because on that particular day or that particular week I was in America’.

The jury retired to consider its verdict. Without having been excused, and without offering any explanation, one juror simply walked out. The remaining eleven convicted King.

It is not only the criminal justice processes that had failed him; the media, too, behaved reprehensibly. This is not just a general criticism of the way they reported the entire case, but a very specific criticism of what happened at trial.

At the outset, the judge imposed blanket reporting restrictions on the grounds that further charges were to be prosecuted subsequently; reporting of this trial could prejudice that future court hearing.

A number of media organisations appealed en bloc to get the judge’s order lifted. They failed.

When the trial finished, and reporting restrictions were lifted, they could then have reported a genuinely sensational and hugely important story: that the indictment, and the charges, were changed after all the evidence had been given, with the result that King has never had the opportunity to defend himself in court against the specific charges on which he was convicted.

But no one reported it.

This exposed the hypocrisy of the media. Their duty to report matters in the public interest was not fulfilled. When push came to shove – actual performance, not glib promises or well-rehearsed mantras about the sanctity of the news-gathering operation, is always the true test – television and the newspapers had no interest in (and, probably, no knowledge of) what had actually happened. They were merely straining at the leash to report the story they had concocted themselves in advance of the trial – their story of a celebrity brought into ignominy and disgrace.

In the event, the reporting restrictions proved unnecessary. The judge directed that King should be found not guilty of all charges that might have formed the basis of a second trial, and he advised the prosecution to abandon a few residual charges.

So King despaired of justice and, albeit still vehemently maintaining his innocence, served a long prison sentence for offences he had not committed.


When he was released, he had lunch with a barrister friend who encouraged him to keep going with his case. ‘Why don’t you just go through everything?’ he suggested, ‘You never know, something might turn up.’

Emboldened, King resolved to do just that. But there was a significant problem. Despite the fact that he owned an apartment on 57th Street in Manhattan, he was now – as a convicted sex offender – not allowed to enter the US.

So he had to ask friends to bring back boxes of documents from the apartment for him to go through in London. It was a laborious process, but eventually he was able to piece together the crucial evidence.

He was able to reconstruct his movements over the weekend of 6th-9th September 1985.

The judge had clearly said to the jury:

‘He cannot, for instance, say, ‘Well, that cannot be right because on that particular day or that particular week I was in America’.

But that’s exactly what King was now able to do.

On 22nd August 1985, he flew to the US to prepare a new series of Entertainment USA, his top-rated BBC2 show. On 1st September he attended a Bruce Springsteen concert in New Jersey. On Friday 6th he had lunch with his US accountant and wrote to the president of CBS records thanking him for the Springsteen tickets. On Saturday 7th he took Ursula Kenny, who worked for the BBC in New York, to see the newly-opened film, Back To The Future. On Sunday 8th he went to Flushing Meadows to watch the US Open men’s tennis final between John McEnroe and Ivan Lendl. While there, he bumped into an old friend, the well-respected US Attorney, Paul Marshall.

On Monday 9th he went to JFK airport, and had lunch at Fisherman’s Wharf before flying back to Heathrow. He arrived on Tuesday morning, the 10th. He had returned merely to get his US visa renewed. He picked that up on the 11th and then flew back to New York on the 12th. He attended the MTV awards at Radio City Music Hall on the 13th and began shooting his new BBC series on Monday 16th.

The judge had told the jury that:

‘we obtained the diary and we do therefore know the dates and you have it, of course… [the man] did agree that it was possible that he did not meet King until 1985 and the diary confirms that this is so.’

This was now revealed to be nonsense. The diary was completely unreliable.

So: the man’s original account was called into question, and he then prayed in aid a hitherto unknown “diary” that he said would support his story. This turned out to be wrong as well. For good measure, it turned out that his sister also kept a diary although, when examined, this corroborated neither the man’s own account nor the mother’s diary.

The upshot of all this is one very stark point: on the very same weekend when, according to the English criminal justice process, King was committing a serious offence in the UK, he was actually on the other side of the Atlantic in New York.

His whereabouts can be verified by documentary evidence of the most impeccable kind (US visa details, and so on) as well as the equally impeccable testimony of a well-respected member of the New York Bar, Paul Marshall.

It is as clear-cut a miscarriage of justice as could be envisaged.


3 May 2016

My article about the King case appeared in the Mail on Sunday, 1 May 2016.


Three postscripts:

(1) King’s lawyers sent all this material to the Criminal Cases Review Commission, but they ignored it; sadly, the CCRC now has a history of almost twenty years of prodigious failure.

(2) There is understandable concern about the vast sums of public money that are squandered in maintaining an inefficient criminal justice system. Certainly, miscarriages of justice are costing the country millions of pounds. In King’s case, though, the loss to the Exchequer was far greater. At the time of his arrest, he had just agreed terms to become chief executive of EMI, the UK’s iconic record company. He was well-placed to turn the company round and so to bring millions of pounds of revenue flowing into the country.

(3) When my article originally appeared in the Mail on Sunday, some readers suggested that the restaurant receipt (reproduced here, above) showed that King was actually in Florida, not New York. Leaving aside the argument that Florida, too, provides an excellent alibi, the explanation is that Fisherman’s Wharf was then a chain of US restaurants with headquarters in Clearwater, Florida. King had lunch at the outlet in JFK airport while waiting for his Pan Am flight back to the UK.


bobwoffindenJonathan King

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  • Tina Willis - 11th June 2016 reply

    Furthermore, for future fairer Global justice and peace.

    Three major crises impacting the UK, EU, and wider world in this era, or any era, are all sadly root-caused, (as ever since the Reformation) by Right wing anti social Anglophone elite spivs and thugs. Always for power, control and profit, and always crudely masked as so called ‘Protection’.

    1) The 1948 ongoing unjust mid-East mess for Oil & Gas, causing millions of deaths including innocent children, and now the massed migrants crisis mostly into nearby pro social modern-EU, but barely affecting anti social backward Brits making the most fuss like spoiled brats.

    2) The 2008 ongoing Global financial crisis from huge frauds by anti social U.S. Wall St & U.K. London City ‘Banksters’. While the ‘coverup’ Anglophone bully mass media is in full denial mode, blaming their victims mainland modern-EU for not adopting austerity as their only option to save the Euro doing OK like the Pound until the US/UK financial World crash. Quote visionary ethical U.S. capitalist multi-billionaire Warren Buffet in his 2002 ‘Berkshire Hathaway’ company AGM, paraphrased, “These Wall Street derivatives dealers are creating financial weapons of mass destruction set soon to explode worldwide.”

    3) The 1980s ongoing anti social Anglophone and now World Child-SeX irrational panic. A malignant ‘psycho-lonial’ virus spread by typically Sex craZed anti social Anglophone distorted mass media, ‘Cold As’ charities, and arrogant authorities with unstated nanny mantra, “We know best!” Deliberately disrespecting lawful Global variations in Ages Of Consent, and consentual if unlawful benign mere sex. Reference once more numerous revered US/UK Rock Gods now including wiggle bum/bulging tight pants SIR Rod Stewart crooning to his massed (and many under-age) fans, “Do ya think I’m sexy?!”

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