10 Dec 2014
Witness gave evidence for an hour before anyone in court realised she wasn't speaking proper English
Lawyers blame her accent and the 'acoustics' of the court-room for being unable to understand her before the court clerk intervened
A woman who claims she was raped by a charismatic African preacher gave evidence for over an hour before anyone realised she was not speaking English.
The woman, who uses a distinctive Creole native to Sierra Leone - was repeatedly told by barristers to speak more slowly and stand further back from the microphone.
Lawyers blamed her accent and the 'acoustics' of the court-room for being unable to understand her - until court clerk Christiana Kyemenu-Caiquo intervened.
Ms Kyemenu-Caiquo, who also hails from Sierra Leone, told Judge Nicholas Madge that the 38-year-old was not in fact talking English at all, but Krio, an African Creole variant.
In desperation the judge at Inner London Crown Court swore the clerk in as an intermediary for the witness, with a new clerk replacing her on the bench.
But the interpreter was barely used as the witness was reduced to repeating the words, "I can't remember", in response to almost every question.
She was appearing at the trial of self-proclaimed "Archbishop" Gilbert Deya, 61, who faces four allegations of rape, one allegation of attempted rape, two allegations of sexual assault and one allegation of battery.
The preacher, who runs Gilbert Deya Ministries - which is said to have a UK membership of 36,000 - originally hails from Kenya.
He runs his church from a large unit on an industrial estate on the edge of Peckham, south-east London and lives there too.
The key prosecution witness, - who cannot be named - gave evidence, a large proportion of which was impossible to understand.
The woman - who cried at points - was not offered a seat during nearly an entire day in the witness box.
She gave her evidence to a jury of 11 men and a single woman, which Judge Madge said was the most unbalanced he had ever seen.
The witness, who originally hails from Freetown in Sierra Leone, claims to have been the subject of Deya's abuse for up to eight years. The Crown say she was raped four times by Deya.
He is also said to have attempted to rape her on another occasion, as well sexually assaulting and battering her.
During her brief evidence-in-chief, she explained to prosecutor Richard Merz how Deya had a series of bedroom attached to his ministry on Ormside Street, near the Old Kent Road in south London.
She explained how she had been in a relationship with the preacher, but ended it and 'moved on'. But when she visited the ministry about some paperwork, Deya grabbed her breasts.
"When he grabbed me, he said 'Can we have sex' and I say 'No, I have moved on with my life, stay away from me'.
"Then I started to struggle. He forced me. I tear his shirt, because he was trying to force me to the floor to have sex by force, he says.'"
The witness described her escape from his clutches, but referred to another incident when Deya and a female accomplice "hurt my neck and kicked my tummy".
Henry Grunwald, QC, defending asked the witness: "Do you understand what the truth is?"
"Yes, I understand," she replied.
"Does the truth ever change or does it remain constant?" he asked.
"It remains constant," the complainant said.
Mr Grunwald told her she had been in a relationship with Deya and there had been "many, many instances of consensual sex".
But the woman said she had been forced to have sex "most of the time" by Deya.
"Oh, most of the time…? That is not the impression that you gave to the jury in the [police] interview they heard yesterday," the barrister replied.
After numerous complaints that the woman could not be understood, the judge appointed his clerk to help the witness.
He told jurors: "Although not a standard interpretation…we are actually going to use Chrissy as something a bit like an interpreter."
Ms Kyemenu-Caiquo then swore the standard interpreters' oath and joined the witness in the box.
The judge also answered a note from the jury, asking whether it was "unusual" to have only one woman on a jury of twelve.
He said: "This is the first time I have ever seen 11 men or 11 women on a jury."
But the judge added the process of selection was random and would not have an impact on their deliberations.
At one point, Mr Grunwald claimed the unofficial interpreter was not making an accurate "repetition" of what the witness had said.
The judge told Ms Kyemenu-Caiquo: "Chrissy, can you please make sure you only interpret what the witness says."
But her services were barely needed, with the witness repeatedly answering "I can't remember" to a variety of questions.
She was asked about her medical records, which apparently revealed inaccuracies about her recent history.
"Are you saying they [healthcare professionals] misunderstood what you said?," Mr Grunwald asked.
"I can't remember. I can't speak proper English," the witness replied.
She went on to complain of being beaten up by female parishioners in part of the church.
"They always beat me," she said, "They always come and attack me in the bookshop."
Asked about a police account of her "losing a baby", she again said she could not remember.
A video, apparently produced by Deya's church, called "Real Testimony" showed the witness talking about Christianity and being cured of an affliction by God.
The producers of the tape had added subtitles to help viewers understand what she was saying.
Mr Grunwald told the witness: "You lie when it suits you and you also say 'I can't remember' when it suits you."
The witness replied: "I can't remember."
Deya, of Peckham, south-east London, denies four counts of rape, one count of attempted rape, two counts of sexual assault and one count of battery by beating.