London, June 17 The ‘House of Cards’ star Kevin Spacey has made his first appearance in a UK criminal court on charges of sexual assault.
In May 2022, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), similar to a District Attorney in the US, authorised charges to be brought against the actor, whose full name is Kevin Spacey Fowler, reports Variety.
He has been charged with four counts of sexual assault in the UK against three men between 2005 and 2013. He was also charged with “causing a person to engage in penetrative sexual activity without consent”.
The reported victims are now in their 30s and 40s.
On Thursday morning, Spacey appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London to acknowledge the charges. He did not enter a plea.
According to Variety, the actor, who was once the toast of Hollywood, appeared calm as he was led 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 the UK address and nodded as the charges were read.
Initially, Deputy Chief Magistrate Tan Ikram referred to Spacey as “Mr. Fowler” until his lawyer, 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 known by the court, the actor indicated he preferred “Mr. Spacey”.
The first matter the court dealt with was withdrawing a warrant for Spacey’s arrest, as Mr. Ikram acknowledged the actor had voluntarily submitted himself to be charged.
Much of the subsequent hearing was taken up with discussing bail conditions, with the CPS asking that bail be granted only on the 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 through lawyers where necessary.
In particular, prosecutor Natalie Dawson said that while she understood Spacey wanted to return to the US to work, and that the CPS did not want to prevent Spacey from working, the agency was concerned about the actor travelling outside the UK as the trial approached.
Given the potential sentence if convicted, it was “reasonably foreseeable” Spacey would not return to the UK to stand trial, Dawson added.
She also said that if the court was considering requesting a security or bail bond 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 lawyer 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 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 police in New York in 2019, voluntarily attending a meeting to be charged this week, and voluntarily attending 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 remain in the US — including a nine-year-old dog he has apparently homed in a kennel while he is in the UK — 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 US.”
The lawyer then honed in on his argument regarding Spacey’s ability 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 the US” with “little or no notice” for work.
He also said: “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” — a mechanism for a third party to pay the court in the event a defendant breaches their bail conditions — because “doing so would be to invite an absolute hailstorm on social media.”
No doubt to the actor’s relief, 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.
“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, Ikram set a date for the next hearing, which is likely to be a case management hearing, at Southwark Crown Court on July 14.
Ikram concluded, at which point Spacey walked out followed by his legal team, which included one US lawyer, two British solicitors and Gibbs, as well as a woman who declined to give her name or role.
Spacey and his 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.