A father from the United Kingdom had only one defense against his daughter's accusation that he had raped her for six years: He didn't do it.
Cathy McCulloch, who became the man's attorney a week before his trial, noticed something odd about the girl's statements to police: She used words and phrases that seemed too mature for her age. She described not only what her father did, but also how she felt.
The barrister also found out, after talking to her client for the first time on the first day of the trial, that his daughter's favorite book is British writer E.L. James's best-selling erotic novel "Fifty Shades of Grey."
So McCulloch got a copy of the book, read it quickly and noticed many similarities between it and the daughter's statement to police. After the second day of the trial, which ended early, McCulloch spent several hours analyzing the similarities to prepare for her cross-examination of the accuser.
McCulloch identified 17 incidents from the girl's story that appeared to have been lifted from the book, according to the barrister's website.[‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ movie: A better adaptation than the book deserves] The next day, after seven minutes of cross-examination, the accuser, according to McCulloch, wavered.
"She suddenly broke and said I was absolutely right. She had made the whole thing up because she was angry with her father and wanted to teach him a lesson," McCulloch said.
McCulloch summarized the case in a blog post posted on her office's website last week.
She said the accuser said her father is strict and was "ruining her life," according to the blog, so she leveled false allegations based on "Fifty Shades of Grey" and other books.
The jury acquitted McCulloch's client of all charges. The judge, according to the barrister's account of what happened, said the case was unlike anything he had seen in his entire legal career.
McCulloch, citing privacy issues, declined to share more details about the case, including her client's name, the court where the case originated or when her client went to trial.
In an email to The Washington Post, McCulloch said she did not release those pieces of information because "the complainant should be subject to an order against the press publishing anything which may identify her." The barrister also said that the order prohibits her from releasing the accuser's age.
McCulloch said criminal cases can be reported in the national press unless a court order bans releasing any information about the case or if an alleged victim of a sex crime is under 18. She added that it's unlikely for members of the foreign press to be able to get more details about a criminal case unless they know someone in the U.K. who's willing to share them.
A spokesperson for the Crown Prosecution Service, which is responsible for prosecuting criminal cases in England and Wales, said in a statement that in the rape case, "as with all cases brought to us by the police, the CPS made a charging decision in accordance to the Code for Crown Prosecutors."
"Such decisions are made after an objective assessment of the evidence which is presented to us. As a matter of course, unsuccessful prosecutions for sexual offences are looked at in order to establish whether lessons can be learned," according to the statement.
McCulloch, whose practice is mainly focused on fraud and sex and violent crimes, was a police officer before she pursued a law degree. She attended the Inns Court School of Law in London, according to her LinkedIn page. Her office, St. Edmund Chambers, is located in Bury St. Edmunds, about 80 miles northeast of London.
McCulloch said she tries to give her all in every case she handles, whether as a defense attorney or a prosecutor. In the U.K., she said, most independent members of the bar both defend and prosecute.
In another sexual assault case in which her client maintained his innocence, McCulloch said, she instructed her solicitors — legal professionals who provide advice and support to clients — to track down a girl whom police did not pursue for her statement. The girl's testimony later helped clear McCulloch's client of charges.
"Fifty Shades of Grey," which became a blockbuster Universal Pictures movie last year, is the first in James's Fifty Shades trilogy about a sensual affair between a college senior and Christian Grey, a young and rich entrepreneur with controlling tendencies.
The erotica series sold more than 100 million copies worldwide in 2014, 45 million of them in the United States. The book, originally published in 2011, was on The Washington Post's bestseller list for 50 weeks.
McCulloch's client thought the book was about a millionaire who took a young woman under his wing and taught her about art, she wrote in her blog.
"He had no idea what 'Fifty Shades of Grey' was about," McCulloch wrote