A British court’s remarkable involvement with Roman Polanski
Nick Cohen, writing in the Observer/Guardian
, sides against
Polanski and his supporters. And he says that the country most guilty of having taken Polanski’s part is not France, but England:
Before we get too smug, however, consider that only one jurisdiction threw money at a man who had pleaded guilty to abusing a girl, and it was not the French or American legal system or even the Iranian or Saudi legal system. Inevitably, the task of rewarding Polanski fell to London judges, who have made the slogan “English justice” an oxymoron the world over.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at October 04, 2009 09:26 PM | Send
In 2002, Vanity Fair ran a long piece on the many writers and artists who have graced the tables of Elaine’s restaurant on New York’s Upper East Side. Lewis Lapham, an American author, recalled that, although Elaine’s regulars were hard to impress, there had been a sharp intake of breath when Polanski stopped by shortly after the death of his wife, the actress Sharon Tate, a victim of Charles Manson’s death cult. He passed the time, they claimed, by trying to grope a beautiful Scandinavian woman in Lapham’s company.
Polanski denied the accusation. Like Russian oligarchs and Saudi Arabian petro-billionaires, Polanski wanted to sue in plaintiff-friendly England, rather than in France, where his citizenship protected him from extradition. Yet how could he? As soon as he came to the high court to reject the allegation, the police would have arrested and deported him. More to the point, libel is meant to protect men and women of good character from having their reputations besmirched. As a fugitive paedophile, Polanski had no good name to besmirch, particularly when the alleged besmirching consisted of the accusation that he was a groper.
But London is not known as “a town called Sue” for nothing, and in a ruling which is still shocking to read, the Law Lords protected Polanski from arrest by allowing him to testify via a video link from France as they upheld the reputations of sexual predators. Samantha Gailey was now a middle-aged, married woman and wanted the matter forgotten. But instead, the law lords held that to deny a fugitive the right to sue for libel was the equivalent of saying that he was an outlaw and it was legitimate to torture him.
It was nothing of the sort. To allow a fugitive from a child abuse conviction the right to sue for libel is the equivalent of saying that molesting children is a trivial offence that does not blacken a man’s character.
When the case came to court, Mr Justice Eady refused to allow Vanity Fair to give the jury the full details of the 1977 attack. It could not therefore draw parallels between Polanski’s offer to Samantha Gailey to get her into Vogue and Lapham’s allegation that he had told the beautiful Scandinavian that he could make “a new Sharon Tate of her”.
The magazine’s dazed New York lawyers then heard Eady instruct the jurors that they were not there “to judge Mr Polanski’s personal lifestyle” because the libel court was not “a court of morals”.
Of all the asinine interventions made by the English establishment in the Polanski affair, this was the worst. For when you are considering whether a man would make a pass at a woman shortly after his wife’s funeral, his morals and lifestyle are precisely what you must examine. Forbidden from doing so, the jury found for Polanski, and Eady sent him a cheque for £50,000.
Tories claim that Britain has a “liberal judiciary” but in two respects our judges are reactionaries. They will not stand up for freedom of expression, and they will not defend the rights of women or, as the Polanski case shows, the rights of girls either.