A jury today (February 17) cleared a London Business School professor, Christopher Hennessy, of an assault charge in a case in which he had been accused of repeatedly punching a 77-year-old businessman who claimed to be having a “sexual affair” with Hennessy’s girlfriend.
According to the UK’s Daily Mail, Hennessy, 51, was charged with a single count of causing “actual bodily harm” after an altercation inside the home of Robert Titchener-Barrett. Hennessy was accused of hitting the businessman several times and leaving a bloody gash on his forehead after the man claimed to be having an affair with Hennessy’s Swedish-born girlfriend, 28-year-old Fanny Forssell Forsberg.
“I am extremely relieved at the verdict and would like to thank my legal team, Trevor Burke QC, and Simons Muirhead Burton, solicitors,” Hennessy said in a statement through a PR firm, TM MediaPR, and provided to Poets&Quants. “I am glad the jury have seen the incident in its full context and reached the correct verdict unanimously – standing up for what is right.”
Hennessy claimed self defense in the altercations that occurred inside Titchener-Barrett’s home in November 2019.
HENNESSY IS LISTED AS A MEMBER OF LBS’ MANAGEMENT BOARD
Hennessy is listed on London Business School’s website as a professor of finance as well as a member of the school’s management board as Finance Subject Area Chair. His CV shows that he has been at LBS since 2008.
Poets&Quants reached out to LBS with a series of questions to confirm Hennessy’s role within the school as well as any action that may have taken place as the alleged incident was investigated. The school responded with the following statement: “We are unable to comment while legal proceedings are underway. However, we have noted your questions and will respond in due course.”
Before joining LBS, Hennessy was associate professor and Finance Area Chair at the Walter A. Haas School of Business at the University of California-Berkeley. He has a Ph.D. in economics as well as a master of public affairs degree from Princeton University. He is also the current editor of the Review of Corporate Finance Studies, according to his LBS profile.
ACCUSER: ‘THE BLOWS RAINED DOWN ON ME’
According to a Daily Mail article on the trial, Hennessy and Titchener-Barrett previously knew each other and lived near each other, but the exact nature of their relationship was unclear.
Titchener-Barrett told the court he had a sexual affair with Hennessy’s girlfriend, architect Fanny Forssell Forsberg, which began after he hired her to design a stained glass memorial window. In his testimony on Wednesday, he said that he was at home watching an international rugby match when he heard a violent pounding on his door. He testified that the door’s lock broke and Hennessy entered with his girlfriend trailing behind him.
“I was immediately assailed by a volley of punches to my face and forehead and did not have much time to think before a volley of blows come down on me,” the Daily Mail reported Titchener-Barrett telling the court. “It was much more than one punch and I put my hands up to protect my face and forehead and my nose was also quite badly smashed because my hands were apart and he punched through the middle.
“The blows rained down on me, I think six, before his girlfriend said: ‘Stop.’”
Titchener-Barrett is a former stockbroker and English businessman who was educated at Brasenose College, Oxford, according to the article.
PROFESSOR CLAIMED SELF-DEFENSE
Hennessy told police, however, that when he and Forsberg went to Titchener-Barrett’s house to return gifts and papers the businessman had given the woman, Titchener-Barrett was the aggressor.
Hennessy denied breaking the door and that Titchener-Barrett answered the door in a “boxer’s stance” with clenched fists, threw the first punch, and drug Hennessy into the house in a bear hug. Hennessy claimed to have hit Titchener-Barrett twice in self-defense, according to Daily Mail reporting.
At the trial, Hennessy’s barrister Trevor Burke alleged that the sexual affair between the senior businessman and the professor’s girlfriend was pure “fantasy” invented by Titchener-Barrett. Burke questioned the accuser over a series of text messages that the businessman sent to the woman, including one in which he threatened to “spill the beans” if the woman did not respond to his texts. He also said the businessman had stalked the woman and set her threatening messages over Twitter.
Titchener-Barrett allegedly told Hennessy about the alleged affair at Hennessy’s home when he went there to pick up the stained glass drawings he had commissioned. While he testified that he told Hennessy that he was “a gentleman where ladies are concerned and I am not going to go into graphic details,” Hennessy claimed that Titchener-Barrett told him, “’I have been f***ing your partner,” according to the Daily Mail.
The next day, Hennessy and Forsberg went to the businessman’s house to return papers and other items, and that’s when the physical altercation took place.
JURY CLEARS PROFESSOR OF CHARGES
In their not guilty verdict, the jury agreed that Hennessy acted in self-defense and acquitted him of assault after an hour of deliberation, according to the Daily Mail.
“I’m here defending a 51-year-old man of impeccable character,” barrister Burke said at the trial. “A 0.5cm wide cut, it’s a hugely disproportionately big deal for him. On the face of it, it’s a trivial crime, but to him, it’s massive … On the face of it he risks losing his good name, his reputation, his good character, which he holds very dearly.”
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