Jean-Roger Kaseki was today (Friday) found not guilty following a three-day trial at Blackfriars Crown Court
Published: 27 January, 2017
by KOOS COUVÉE
TOLLINGTON ward councillor, human rights campaigner and school governor Jean-Roger Kaseki has been cleared of assaulting his wife during a domestic row last year.
Cllr Kaseki, a prominent figure in the Congolese community, was in the dock this week charged with causing actual bodily harm to his wife, Regine Mukendi Kaseki, during an argument at the couple’s council flat in Upper Holloway last February.
Today (Friday) a jury at Blackfriars Crown Court found him not guilty following a three-day trial.
The court heard that, following an argument over relatively trivial household matters, Cllr Kaseki – who denied the charge – lost his temper and threw a washing up liquid bottle at his wife, hitting her just above the eye, before dragging her by the collar of her shirt.
Ms Kaseki told the jury he lost his balance and she fell on top of him, after which he started pulling her hair. He also grabbed her foot and twisted it, tearing the ligament in her toe, she said.
“I had to do something and I got the [wooden] doorstop and hit him [on his arm] for him to let me go. I was begging him to stop,” she said.
Jurors were shown photos of her injuries – a swollen and bloodshot eye, a bruised elbow and a swollen toe – taken at Kentish Town police station the following day.
But Cllr Kaseki, who told the jury of the work he does in the community, said he had acted in self-defence after his wife assaulted him. He said he had remained calm during the row and denied ever having been violent or aggressive.
The court heard that the couple had met at university in their native Democratic Republic of Congo, and had been granted asylum in Britain in the late 1990s, after civil war erupted in the country.
Soon after they started their married life in Britain, Cllr Kaseki, then aged 39, had a serious stroke, leaving him wheelchair-bound for a number of years. While he regained his mobility later, he is disabled and his wife had been his carer for 15 years, the court heard.
The couple are politically active and stood as Labour candidates in Islington in 2010. While Cllr Kaseki was elected in Tollington, his wife was defeated in Highbury East.
In cross-examination, defence barrister Benjamin Newton suggested to Ms Kaseki, who is seeking a divorce, she had fabricated the story out of resentment towards her husband.
“This [after the election] is when your marriage began to falter, isn’t it, because you were resentful?” he asked her. He suggested her bitterness grew when her husband was re-selected as a Labour candidate to contest the 2014 election while she failed to do so.
But Ms Kaseki replied that her anger had always been directed at Islington Labour group, adding: “I thought, fair enough, I’m finished with them. I’m not part of that party anymore, because I felt betrayed.”
In closing arguments yesterday (Thursday), Mr Newton told the jury: “A marriage between two people who love each other more than anything can become something between two people who hate each other more than anything in the world.
“It’s not a question of saying that the background of not being elected is a motivation for lying about him. It’s not that simple.
“In 2010 she was the carer, the giver, the other is the recipient and that’s the person who gets elected. Ms Kaseki said she was betrayed [by Labour]. And her husband is still very much part of that world.
“This marriage is on the rocks. But when you’re in a shared home, what’s going to happen?”
He added: “A simple divorce is a consequence of [the allegation] she has made and she has legal aid in family court proceedings, to come out of this divorce in the best possible way.
“If you hate your husband enough to divorce him, why could you not hate him enough to accuse him of violence?”
Prosecuting barrister Alex Wright told the jury: “It’s true that Mr Kaseki has no criminal record and that he does good work [in the community] but sadly the public persona is not always the same as how people behave behind closed doors in the family home.
“He said he never lost his temper. Was he telling the truth or was he putting on a show, demonstrating how he, a governor of three schools, a champion of human rights, should act?”
The jury took around four hours to find Cllr Kaseki not guilty on the ABH charge and another offence, details of which cannot be published for legal reasons.
Writing in the Tribune in 2012, Cllr Kaseki claimed to be Britain’s first councillor of Congolese heritage. He has campaigned and lobbied for human rights in Congo to be improved and called for the country to join the Commonwealth.
He also sits on the governing body of Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust and, according to his social media profiles, is an associate at the Human Rights and Social Justice Centre at London Metropolitan University.
Cllr Kaseki was “administratively suspended” from the party as soon as it had become aware of the allegations last march, the Islington Labour group said.
It means that he is still a councillor and can sit on committees but has not been able to attend Labour group meetings.
In a statement given to the Tribune, Town Hall leader Richard Watts said: “We are aware of the court case that has taken place involving Cllr Kaseki and note that he has been acquitted of all charges. We will be making no further comment at this time.”
The Tribune has not yet been able to reach Cllr Kaseki for comment.