Britney Spears testimony: pop star compares herself to sex trafficking victim and says her father won't let her off birth control

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Britney Spears has been subject to the conservatorship of her father, Jamie, since 2008 - AP
Britney Spears has been subject to the conservatorship of her father, Jamie, since 2008 - AP

Britney Spears on Wednesday night said she was "not here to be a slave" and claimed that she was forcibly kept on contraception as part of a controversial conservatorship arrangement.

Breaking her silence before a US judge, the 39-year-old pop star denounced her father Jamie Spears' legal control of her life and finances as "abusive" and likened it to "sex trafficking".

In an extraordinary 23-minute speech delivered remotely to the courtroom in Los Angeles, she said she had been forced to have a intrauterine birth control device (IUD) inserted and forbidden to have children, as well as being made to take lithium, a powerful mood stabiliser drug with serious side effects, against her will.

She accused her father of "loving every moment" of the control he had over her affairs and said his team had pushed her to do back-to-back musical tours when she did not want to.

She asked Judge Brenda Penny to end the conservatorship, saying her family had "lived off it for 13 years" and that it "made no sense" to continue it when she was fully able to work and earn money.

The claims represent her first public statements about the court-approved legal arrangement that was first put in place in 2008 when she suffered a mental health breakdown.

'It's abusive. I cry every day'

Spears told the court on Wednesday: "I truly believe this conservatorship is abusive... I've told the whole world [that] I'm okay and I'm happy. It's a lie.

"I thought just maybe [if] I said that enough, I might become happy, because I've been in denial. I've been in shock. I am traumatised. You know, 'fake it till you make it'?

"But now I'm telling you the truth, okay? I'm not happy. I can't sleep. I'm so angry, it's insane. And I'm depressed. I cry every day, and the reason I'm telling you this is because I don't think the state of California can have all this written in the court documents from the time I showed up and do absolutely nothing...

"I'm not lying. I just want my life back and it's been 13 years and it's enough. It's been a long time since I've owned my money, and it's my wish in my dream for all of this to end without being tested."

Some of Spears' supporters outside the court wept after hearing her testimony - AP
Some of Spears' supporters outside the court wept after hearing her testimony - AP

She also suggested that the laws should be reformed, saying: "We can sit here all day and say 'Oh, conservatorships are here to help people'. But ma’am, there’s a thousand conservatorships that are abusive as well."

A 13-year battle for control

Spears is engaged in a prolonged legal battle to remove Jamie Spears, 68, from the role of conservator, imposed in 2008 after her involuntary hospitalisation during a custody battle over her two sons.

Since then her father has been legally responsible for her personal affairs, ranging from her medical care to who visits her secluded villa outside Los Angeles, as well as her estimated $60 million (£43.8 million) estate, which he oversees alongside private wealth management firm Bessemer Trust.

The last time Spears spoke directly to the judge was in May 2019, in a closed court and with her testimony sealed from the public. Details of her mental health have never been disclosed.

However, a new report from The New York Times this week claimed that she had been trying to fight the restrictions since 2014, when she is said to have told the court that she felt forced to stay at a mental health facility and to perform against her will.

A lawyer for Mr Spears did not respond to a request for comment on that report. His lawyers said in February that he had "diligently and professionally carried out his duties."

Lawyers for Mr Spears offered no specific answer to his daughter's claims in court on Wednesday, beyond a short statement: "He is sorry to see his daughter suffering and in so much pain. Mr Spears loves his daughter and misses her very much."

 courtroom sketch shows Judge Brenda J. Penny presiding over participants, virtually appearing on a screen - MONA EDWARDS/AFP via Getty Images
courtroom sketch shows Judge Brenda J. Penny presiding over participants, virtually appearing on a screen - MONA EDWARDS/AFP via Getty Images

Star claims managers took her phone and passport

On Wednesday, as protesters outside the courthouse chanted "free Britney!", Spears described a life of threats, micromanagement and coerced labour for her conservators' benefit, speaking so rapidly that the judge twice had to ask her to let the official court reporter to catch up.

She alleged that in 2018, her managers used legal threats to force her to perform on a rapid schedule dictated by them and then punished her when she deviated from their plans.

After demanding a break between tours, she said, she was falsely accused of refusing to take her medication and made to take lithium, which is used to treat bipolar disorders and schizophrenia.

Singer Britney Spears and father Jamie, brother Bryan and mother Lynne - Chris Farina/Corbis via Getty Images
Singer Britney Spears and father Jamie, brother Bryan and mother Lynne - Chris Farina/Corbis via Getty Images

"I felt drunk," she told the court. "I couldn’t even have a conversation with my mom or dad really about anything. I told him I was scared... there were six different nurses in my home and they wouldn’t let me get in my car to go anywhere for a month."

Describing that time, she said: "In California, the only similar thing to this is called sex trafficking. Making anyone work against their will, taking all their possessions away – credit card, cash, phone, passport – and placing them in a home where they work with the people who live with them.

"They all lived in the house with me – the nurses, the 24-7 security.... they watched me change every day, morning, noon and night."

'He loved every minute of it'

Spears further alleged that her father enjoyed his position. She said: "I cried on the phone for an hour and he loved every minute of it. The control he had over someone as powerful as me – to hurt his own daughter – 100,000 per cent, he loved it."

She said that she developed claustrophobia from being repeatedly trapped in therapy rooms, and said: "I’m scared of people. I don’t trust people with what I’ve been through."

She also said that she had been made to go to appointments in Westlake, a district in the centre of Los Angeles, rather than having them at home, which she called "a clever set-up" to humiliate her by exposing her to photographers.

"It was very clever that they picked one of the most exposed places – knowing that I have the hot topic of the conservatorship, that over five paparazzis are going to show up and get me crying coming out of that place," she said. "I begged them to make sure that they did this at my home."

She concluded: "Basically, this conservatorship is doing me way more harm than good. I deserve to have a life. I've worked my whole life; I deserve to have a two-to-three-year break and just do what I want to do...

"I feel ganged up on, and I feel bullied, and I feel left out and alone. And I'm tired of feeling alone. I deserve to have the same rights as anybody does... that's all I wanted to say."

Spears seeks say over her care plan

Samuel Ingham, Spears' court-appointed lawyer, said it was now clear there had been an irreconcilable disagreement between her and her care managers and that she needed to have input into her care plan in court.

Lauriann Wright, counsel for Spears' temporary care manager Jodi Montgomery, agreed with that notion but asked that the care plan not be discussed in view of the public.

Spears cut in: "But I have to be in agreement to this care plan. I can't be forced to do what I don't want to do." She said she was happy to do therapy but wanted it to happen at her house and happen twice a week.

After the speech, Mr Ingham said his client would now prefer that court proceedings be sealed from the public, since she has said what she needed to say.

A lawyer for Spears' mother Lynne spoke in support of her claims and said that she should have her own lawyer as soon as possible.

Stars and #FreeBritney protesters speak out

Mariah Carey and Justin Timberlake were among the stars sharing messages of support for Spears on Wednesday night.

Carey tweeted: "We love you Britney!!! Stay strong."

Spears dated Justin Timberlake between 1999 and 2002. He has recently apologised for benefitting “from a system that condones misogyny” - GETTY IMAGES
Spears dated Justin Timberlake between 1999 and 2002. He has recently apologised for benefitting “from a system that condones misogyny” - GETTY IMAGES

Timberlake, who dated Spears between 1999 and 2002 and recently apologised for failing to stand up for her at some of her darkest moments, said: "Regardless of our past, good and bad, and no matter how long ago it was… what’s happening to her is just not right.

"No woman should ever be restricted from making decisions about her own body."

Rose McGowan, the actress and activist, tweeted: "Britney Spears has every right to be angry. How would you feel if your life was stolen, dissected, mocked? I pray she gets to live your life on her terms. STOP CONTROLLING WOMEN."

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Spears' situation has returned to the headlines in recent months thanks to the documentary Framing Britney Spears, which explores the celebrity culture at the time of her rise to fame.

The #FreeBritney fan movement staged a rally on Wednesday near the courthouse to highlight its concerns over the conservatorship.

Spears appeared to endorse the movement in a statement from her lawyers last year, which stated: "Britney welcomes and appreciates the informed support of her fans".

Spears also indicated to her fans last week that she had no idea whether she will ever perform again. "I'm having fun right now, I'm in a transition in my life and I'm enjoying myself," she said on Instagram.

The judge has yet not made any ruling, and the trial continues.

Read more: Beyond Britney Spears: the troubled female stars who also deserve an apology

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