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Last Updated: Monday, 18 July, 2005, 12:48 GMT 13:48 UK
Background to Polanski libel trial
Roman Polanski
Mr Polanski faces immediate arrest if he returns to the US
Roman Polanski's libel case against magazine Vanity Fair, over an article published in July 2002, rested uniquely on whether the Chinatown director would be able to pursue the case without setting foot in a UK court.

Mr Polanski, who is wanted on an outstanding sex offence in the US, faces possible arrest and extradition if he enters the United Kingdom.

Convicted of having unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl in Hollywood in 1977, and fearing a lengthy jail sentence, the director skipped bail and fled for France.

He has never returned and faces immediate arrest if he sets foot on US soil.

As a French citizen, Mr Polanski cannot be extradited to the US from France. But that protection would not apply were he to travel to the UK, which has an extradition agreement with America.


The High Court originally granted the order to allow evidence to be given by video link.

Justice Eady maintained that Mr Polanski could not justifiably be deprived of the chance to have his case heard.

However, the Court of Appeal overturned the decision in November 2003, saying Mr Polanski would have to appear in person should he wish to pursue the case.

But the director's lawyers argued that he had a human right to a fair hearing and to protect his reputation through the courts and took the case to the House of Lords.

In February 2005, the Law Lords overturned the Court of Appeal's earlier decision in a 3-2 majority hearing.

It is purported to be the first time a libel claimant has given evidence at trial via video link.

But controversy continues over whether, given his criminal conviction, Mr Polanski should have been allowed to bring a libel claim in England.

And some have questioned whether the film director should have been able to use the country's legal system while avoiding the consequences of its laws.

"I find it amazing that a man who lives in France can sue a magazine that is published in America in a British courtroom," said Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter at the end of the trial.

Polanski was awarded 50,000 in damages after a jury agreed the magazine had libelled him by suggesting he propositioned a woman shortly after his wife was murdered in 1969.


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