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Bid to bar reporting Ken Clarke’s name in sex accuser’s trial fails

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Bid to bar reporting Ken Clarke’s name in sex accuser’s trial fails

Ben Fellows charged with ‘falsely accusing’ former minister of indecently assaulting him

By Tim Wood | 27 January 2015

Bid to bar reporting Ken Clarke’s name in sex accuser’s trial failsExaro saw off an attempt to bar reporting the name of former cabinet minister Kenneth Clarke over allegedly false accusations of sexual assault.

Benjamin Matthew Fellows, 40, an actor, is due to face trial at Southwark crown court this summer on a charge of intent to pervert the course of justice in late 2012 after he is alleged to have falsely accused Clarke of indecently assaulting him in 1994. Fellows was allegedly posing at the time as a 15-year-old boy.

A hearing was arranged before Mr Justice Nigel Sweeney at the Old Bailey the Friday before last so that the prosecution could seek an order to bar the reporting of Clarke’s name in connection with the case.

Exaro spotted that the hearing was scheduled, which was a surprise because the case is due to be tried at Southwark. A hearing was already due in March for Fellows to plead, as well as for case management.

Solicitors for Fellows had not been informed of the hearing at the Old Bailey, so the case was adjourned until later in the day to enable a lawyer for him to attend.

Fellows, of Olton, Birmingham, who is on remand in custody, did not appear in court.

Christopher Hehir, prosecuting, told the court that the Crown – and Clarke himself – did not want him to be identified in reporting of the case. Our reporter stood up from the Press bench to object to the prosecutor’s application.

The judge then ordered Hehir to set out a skeleton argument on which he was applying for reporting restrictions, and for it to be e-mailed to Exaro.

He said that Exaro could then make a submission to object to the application, and he would decide the issue at a further hearing, scheduled for last Friday.

He made an interim order to bar reporting of Clarke’s name until the issue was resolved. He said that it would be “automatically rescinded without the need for a further hearing” if the prosecution decided not to pursue its application.

Ahead of the hearing, the deadline for the prosecutor’s skeleton argument passed, but nothing arrived.

A senior official at the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) later e-mailed Exaro to say: “At the hearing in this case at the Central Criminal Court on January 16, prosecution counsel made an application to restrict media reporting of information that could lead to the complainant in this case being identified.

“Mr Justice Sweeney granted an interim order to that effect in accordance with section 4(2) of the Contempt of Court Act 1981.”

“The prosecution was directed to serve a written application if it intended to apply for a substantive order. For your information, I can confirm that the prosecution does not intend to make an application for a substantive order, and we have written to the court and the judge to confirm this.”

Mark Watts, Editor-in-Chief of Exaro, said: “We felt that the application offended against the well-established principle of open justice.

“We are restricted in what we can say about the case at this stage because criminal proceedings are active, and the matter is coming up for trial. But we are pleased that the Crown Prosecution Service seems to have seen sense in the end on the issue of trying to ban the reporting of Clarke’s name in this case.”

Fellows appeared in two episodes of The Bill in 1991 and 1993. He was charged as a result of ‘Operation Fairbank’, which is mostly investigating claims against several senior political figures of sexual abuse against children.

Clarke was chancellor from 1993 to 1997 in John Major’s Conservative government. He was a cabinet minister from 2010 to July last year in the coalition government. He is due to re-stand for his seat in Parliament at this year’s general election.

Update 20 March 2015: Ben Fellows today pleaded not guilty to making a false accusation to police of indecent assault by Kenneth Clarke.

Ben Fellows is charged with “doing acts tending or intended to pervert the course of justice”. The particulars of the claim are that Fellows falsely alleged to police “that he had been indecently assaulted by Kenneth Clarke.”

Fellows entered a plea this morning of “not guilty” at a hearing at Southwark crown court. The trial is due in July at the Old Bailey.

In the meantime, Ben Fellows is on £5,000 bail and must observe a curfew between 10pm and 3am.

Related Stories : Child sex abuse, ‘Fernbridge’ and ‘Fairbank’: Exaro story thread

Sarah Davies
Sarah Davieshttps://www.exaronews.com/
Exaro News investigates matters of public interest and seeks to uncover the truth.

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