Jury finds actor not guilty over complaint to police of indecent assault by Ken Clarke
Actor Benjamin Fellows was today cleared of attempting to pervert the course of justice by falsely claiming that ex-chancellor Kenneth Clarke indecently assaulted him.
A jury of nine women and three men found Fellows not guilty as charged following an eight-day trial at the Old Bailey. They deliberated on their verdict for just under eight hours.
The verdict was greeted with cheers from the public gallery.
Mr Justice Peregrine Simon immediately discharged Fellows.
As he left the court room, Fellows told Exaro: “I am just so relieved, I am just so relieved. This has been my life for the last two years.” He said that he would be having a drink to celebrate.
Benjamin Matthew Fellows, 40, of Olton in Birmingham, claimed to police that Clarke plied him with alcohol and “groped” him in the office of a political lobbyist, Ian Greer, while working undercover in 1994 for ITV’s The Cook Report. Fellows was 19 at the time, but said that he was posing as a 15-year-old, and that the assault was filmed by a covert camera.
Fellows made a formal statement about the alleged sexual assault to the Metropolitan Police Service’s ‘Operation Fairbank’, which launched in 2012 to investigate claims mostly against senior political figures of sexual abuse against children.
Fellows was cleared of a charge of “doing acts tending or intended to pervert the course of justice” by falsely alleging to police “that he had been indecently assaulted by Kenneth Clarke.”
Roger Cook, who presented The Cook Report, Exaro’s David Hencke and other journalists who worked on the programme’s investigation into political lobbyists – as well as Clarke himself – were lined up as witnesses for the trial.
Clarke described the claim against him as “bizarre” and “preposterous”. He told the Old Bailey: “My reaction to all of this was that it was rather like Martians landing.”
“I think that I was chosen because I was something of a B-list celebrity because I was chancellor.”
The jury also heard how Detective Chief Inspector Paul Settle, then head of the Met’s paedophile unit and of Operation Fairbank, told Fellows in a meeting that Joanna Lumley, the actor, had taken part in pornographic films.
Bernard Richmond, defending Fellows, asked Settle’s then deputy, Detective Inspector Keith Braithwaite, whether anything surprised him about that meeting.
“Yes, he [Settle] made a reference to Joanna Lumley, that she had been involved in pornographic films.”
Richmond later asked Settle: “Would you have liked to have thought twice about what you said about Joanna Lumley?”
Settle replied: “Yes, it was regrettable,” adding, “I was trying to build rapport with him so he would have confidence in our team.”
Richmond told the jury: “DCI Paul Settle pressured the defendant into making a statement.”
“Settle was saying do not worry, it is not going to have much effect. But it led my client into the dock of the Old Bailey.”
Ben Fellows said that he stood by his allegations against Clarke.
Duncan Atkinson, prosecuting, asked him: “Does it remain your evidence that Ken Clarke groped you?”
Fellows replied: “It does, yeah.”
Atkinson told the court that Fellows was an “inventive and sometimes persuasive fantasist.”
But the jury only had to decide whether Fellows had attempted to pervert the course of justice. It concluded that he had not.
As Fellows left the Old Bailey amid cheering supporters, he read out a statement. “First and foremost,” he said, “my love and thanks to friends and family and supporters. Your support has kept me going through the ordeal of the last two years.
“It was an intense and terrifying experience being at the Old Bailey, and I felt completely out of my depth, and would never have been able to cope without the dedicated and hard working legal team paid for by legal aid.”
He added: “As far as I am concerned, the next few weeks and months are about rebuilding my life and moving on. I shall make no further comment – now or in the future – about Mr Clarke or the events of 1994. I ask everyone to respect this decision and allow these matters to rest.”
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