Shabbat saved 'rape' judge from media uproar


JUDGE Lindsey Kushner ended her 43-year legal career in a burst of controversy which keeps rumbling on.

The Mancunian judge was accused of victim-blaming by Dame Vera Bird, director of Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, after she warned women that they were more likely to be raped if they were drunk.

Her warning came after she convicted Ricardo Rodrigues-Gomes of raping Megan Clark when she was drunk.

It was Judge Kushner's last criminal case in a Manchester court before her official retirement after Pesach.

After her words of caution, Judge Kushner went back to her Broughton Park home to prepare for Shabbat. And it was the religious day of rest which protected her from the initial blast of media publicity which hit that day.

Now Judge Kushner is "rather bemused" by all the fuss, but glad that the issue is still being talked about and raising awareness of the problems of excess drinking.

Last week her views were supported on ITV's Good Morning Britain by presenter Piers Morgan, as well as by Megan, the victim in the case.

As she moaned about all the household chores which had been left unattended during her working life, the judge recalled the events of that March weekend.

She claimed: "A lot of judges have said the same thing."

So she was not prepared for the media uproar.

"I gave the sentence and the sentencing remarks on a Friday. I assumed that it would go in the Manchester Evening News because I knew there were members of the press there.

"Because it was erev Shabbat I had no idea that it had hit TV, not just locally, but nationally."

Her husband David Kaye told her on Shabbat morning that the case had reached The Times.

Judge Kushner said: "I expected it to be a little snippet. I realised when I looked at it that there was a picture and a big spread. I had had controversy before, but not on a national level. I thought, 'Blimey, that's unusual'."

Then, as she was preparing Shabbat lunch a freelance reporter came to the door.

She said: "I thought that was interesting. This obviously has struck a nerve somewhere.

"Then I found out after Shabbat that it had been on TV and that it was still rambling on in the evening. I thought that would be that."

But it wasn't. The backlash to the backlash occurred and the judge was told she was right by the victim on BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme. She has received a chorus of support from all quarters, including from the Lord Chief Justice.

Judge Kushner recalled: "At first I felt a bit uncomfortable with the backlash to my remarks. Then I looked at what they had said and thought, 'That's preposterous!'

"The backlash was in relation to a tiny snippet, which was taken out of context, right at the end of my remarks. I wasn't particularly fussed about it."

And the retired judge is still happy to spout forth to all and sundry on her views on drunkenness and sex.

She has taken up a moral crusade to make the modern generation of women more aware of their vulnerability when drunk and for men to consider their partners' needs, rather than just their own.

So where do her morals come from? Are they inspired by her Jewish values?

"Not particularly. I think I would have the same morals if I were Roman Catholic or Buddhist," she replied. "I was brought up with moral values, but I don't think they were particularly Jewish."

She recalled: "It was completely different then. I am sure I have the same values as a lot of other people who are 65.

"My parents were very moral people. My mother still is."

She said of her mother, 90-year-old Rita Kushner, of Didsbury, south Manchester: "She has a much more frantic and hectic social life than I have.

"The octogenarians, nonagenarians and centenarians have this wild and wonderful life. My mum chairs the Thursday Club, plays bridge, generally socialises. She is so busy."

Lindsey reckons that she was raised in a "middle-of-the-road" Jewish home.

She said: "Irrespective if they are charedi or keep nothing, everybody thinks they are middle-of-the-road."

The Kushners moved to Cheshire when Lindsey was six and kept a kosher home, but not Shabbat.

Before the Yeshurun Congregation was established in Gatley, Cheshire, the nearest shul was in Sharston, the site of the present Menorah Synagogue.

The Orthodox shul served communities in Northenden, Wythenshawe and Gatley. Lindsey was among the oldest children in the community.

Judge Kushner said she decided to study law despite the fact that her late father, Harry Kushner, was a district judge.

She said: "My father would have loved me to be a barrister, but I didn't see why I had to be a barrister just because he would have liked it.

"I was very good at languages. I wasn't going to do law."

But her "inspirational" French teacher became exasperated with her over her attention to detail and said she would make a good lawyer.

Judge Kushner said: "It was just before I was to fill in the UCAS forms. I started thinking that the trouble with languages is that you never know what you are going to do when you get your degree.

"I thought that being a barrister was a lovely mix of practice and theory, academic and performance."

And so law it was for her studies at Liverpool University and then qualifying in London.

Judge Kushner said: "By the time I was a student, I was pretty non-religious."

It was in Liverpool that she first met her future husband. They met again when they both returned to Manchester.

Judge Kushner had attempted to gain pupillage to become a barrister in London, but had failed and gained it in Manchester.

She said: "It was the best thing for me to be a larger fish in a smaller pool. Women barristers were very, very rare then."

But that proved to be in her favour. She said: "It was fine. The provincial bar was like a club. In those days people were still congratulating themselves if they had a woman in chambers. It was thought to be relatively progressive.

"It was just before they were criticised if they didn't have a woman in chambers. But everybody was very protective."

By the time Judge Kushner met up again with insolvency accountant David, he was becoming more religious.

David and a friend had been exploring other religions when Rabbi Chaim Farro and Avraham Jaffe persuaded them to learn more about their Judaism first. His friend became a Lubavitcher and David less so. But he became religious.

How did the then-irreligious Judge Kushner feel about that?

She said: "It was absolutely OK with me because I was not very satisfied with having no rules. I need some parameters to help me along the way."

So the couple became shomrei Shabbat (Shabbat observant).

Early in her career as a barrister, Judge Kushner became busy with different kinds of cases.

She said: "I started doing everything, crime and family law. It was at the time when the bar had just started expanding and legal aid was being granted in a lot of new areas.

"The work at the bar exploded. I was busy from the word go, doing all sorts of itsy bitsy little bits you wouldn't do now. Insurance companies paid you to represent people who had a bump."

Judge Kushner was travelling all over the north of England, gradually moving onto more complex cases. She ended up specialising in family care, adoption and wardship cases.

She said: "Very few people did that. I became the expert."

Judge Kushner took the minimum of maternity leave while having her children, Alex and Tamara.

A particular problem was being able to purchase black maternity wear as she had to wear dark colours in court.

She said: "In those days maternity wear was all floral smocks. But Laura Ashley had black tents with a wide cummerbund, which I took off. I was like an elephant when I was pregnant."

After her children were born, Judge Kushner was the only one of her friends to go back to work so soon.

She said: "People in the community tried to persuade me not to do it. But in the bar you do not have the luxury of disappearing for five years. Thanks to my mother-in-law looking after the children, it became possible."

By the time her sister Martine, who is now a senior judge in Falkland Islands, entered the bar six years later, things had become easier for women.

Eighteen years after entering the bar in 1974, Lindsey became a QC and a judge in 2000.

Now in her retirement, Judge Kushner looks forward to having more time for her family and home.

She said: "I would like to promote a normal family life, see my kids in London and America more often and do during the day what I used to spend evenings and sometimes all through the night doing.

"It will be nice to have free evenings and weekends without having half a mind on the next case."

© 2017 Jewish Telegraph