Kevin Spacey has made his first appearance in a U.K. criminal court on charges of sexual assault.
Last month the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), similar to a District Attorney in the U.S., authorized charges to be brought against the actor. He has been charged with four counts of sexual assault in the U.K. against three men between 2005 and 2013. He was also charged with “causing a person to engage in penetrative sexual activity without consent.” The alleged victims are now in their 30s and 40s.
On Thursday morning, Spacey appeared at Westminster Magistrates Court in London to acknowledge the charges.
The actor, who was once the toast of Hollywood, appeared calm as he was led in through Courtroom 1 and into the glass-panelled dock, dressed in a dark blue suit, white shirt and black tie with glasses. He spoke only to give his name, date of birth and U.K. address and nodded as the charges were read.
Initially, deputy chief magistrate Tan Ikram referred to Spacey as “Mr Fowler” – the actor’s birth name – until the his barrister, Patrick Gibbs QC, explained to the court he would refer to his client as “Mr Spacey.” When the deputy chief magistrate asked Spacey directly how he would prefer to be referred to by the court, the actor indicated he would prefer “Mr Spacey.”
The first matter the court dealt with was withdrawing a warrant for Spacey’s arrest, as Mr Ikram acknowledged the actor had voluntary submitted himself to be charged.
Much of the subsequent hearing was taken up with discussing bail conditions, with the CPS requesting bail on condition that Spacey surrendered his travel documents, promised not to apply for any other travel documents, slept at his London address and did not contact the prosecution’s witnesses except via lawyers where necessary.
In particular, prosecutor Natalie Dawson said that while she understood Spacey wanted to return to the U.S. to work, and that the CPS did not want to prevent Spacey from working, she said that the agency was concerned about the actor travelling outside the U.K. as the trial approached. Given the potential sentence if convicted, it was “reasonably foreseeable” Spacey would not return to the U.K. to stand trial, Dawson said.
She also added that if the court was considering requesting some kind of security from Spacey to prevent him from absconding, it would need to be “commensurate with the defendant’s wealth” to be a “reasonable deterrent” because the CPS believes Spacey to be “a man of significant means” (a British euphemism meaning the CPS believes Spacey is wealthy).
However, Spacey’s barrister argued strongly that the bail conditions regarding travel were excessive.
No doubt mindful of the public gallery behind him packed with press, Gibbs began his address to Mr Ikram by saying Spacey “strenuously denies any and all criminality in this case.” He then went on to set out a number of reasons why the actor’s bail terms should be unconditional, including the fact that he had co-operated fully with the case so far, for example submitting to four days of questioning by British police in New York in 2019, voluntarily attended a meeting to be charged this week, and had voluntarily attended the court that morning.
“One of the obvious reasons why he will [not abscond] is he needs to answer these charges if is he to proceed with his life,” Gibbs said. “His face is well known. What is he going to do? Where is he going to hide?”
Gibbs also stressed that because Spacey’s life and family are in the U.S. – including a 9-year-old dog he has apparently homed in a kennel while he is in the U.K. – preventing him from travelling would be an excessive punishment as he waited to stand trial. “What is he to do?” Gibbs asked the court.” Is he to be in effect incarcerated in his flat in London, unable to work, unable to see his family, unable to audition for work?
All his belongings are in the USA.”
The barrister then honed in on his argument to enable Spacey to work. “In his line of business working requires him to audition, working requires him to go to meetings and have face-to-face discussions with writers, directors, casting agents,” Gibbs said, stressing the actor may need to fly to France, Italy “or more likely USA” with “little or no notice” for work.
Gibbs also said that “There’s some many in the bank account” if the court did want Spacey to submit to a bail bond but that “No request has been made to his friends in the performing arts to stand surety” because “doing so would be to invite an absolute hailstorm on social media.”
No doubt to the actor’s relief, Mr Ikram accepted Gibbs’ argument. “You have cooperated with the authorities in New York and voluntarily attended here today,” the deputy chief magistrate said to Spacey, who nodded. “I’ve not been persuaded there is a real risk [of absconding], bearing in my mind all I have heard about you.”
After granting unconditional bail, Mr Ikram set a date for the next hearing, which is likely to be a case management hearing, at Southwark Crown Court on July 14. But he warned Spacey: “If you were late, if you didn’t attend, a warrant would be issued for your arrest.”
“You’re free to leave the dock,” Mr Ikram concluded, at which point Spacey walked out followed by his legal team, which included one U.S. lawyer, two British solicitors and Gibbs, as well as a woman who declined to give her name or role.
Spacey and his legal team immediately headed for a conference room down the hall before making their way to the foyer, where they waited for a few minutes before exiting the building. Spacey and his team then walked through a phalanx of photographers and camera crews lined up all the way from the court entrance to a waiting car, which whisked the actor away.
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