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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 July, 2005, 15:43 GMT 16:43 UK
Polanski called 'sexual predator'
Roman Polanski
Mr Polanski has denied the incident ever took place
Director Roman Polanski has "a well-deserved reputation as a cynical sexual predator", a defence lawyer has told his libel trial.

But Mr Polanski's lawyer told London's High Court that the director had been "monstrously libelled for the sake of a lurid anecdote".

Mr Polanski is suing over claims he made sexual advances to a woman shortly after his wife was murdered in 1969.

Vanity Fair magazine denies libelling Mr Polanski in the July 2002 article.

Timing of incident

The article said Mr Polanski made advances to "Swedish beauty" Beate Telle in New York restaurant Elaine's shortly after the death of his wife, Sharon Tate.

The magazine has since accepted the incident did not happen when Mr Polanski was on his way back to Hollywood for Ms Tate's funeral, but said it occurred about two weeks later.

Ms Tate was murdered by Charles Manson's "family" at the couple's home in Bel Air, California.

Mr Polanski won the right to testify from Paris, amid fears that if he entered the UK he would face extradition to the US, where he is still required to face child sex charges.

Sharon Tate
Tate was eight and a half months pregnant when she was killed
In his closing speech on behalf of the magazine's publishers, Conde Nast, lawyer Tom Shields said the key to Mr Polanski's libel action was "Roman's law of morality".

"This law knows of no rules - only violations of civilised conduct which, it appears, can be readily excused."

He said the magazine's case was that Mr Polanski was "well capable of behaving badly" by the end of August 1969.

Mr Shields said the fact that Mr Polanski had casual sex within a month of his wife's death revealed a "certain callous indifference" to her memory.

An honourable man would not behave the way he behaved - even in the Swinging Sixties
Defence lawyer Tom Shields
The defence lawyer added: "As to whether Mr Polanski's reputation is capable of being damaged, sadly, we would say, it is beyond repair."

He went on: "An honourable man would come to this court, an honourable man would return to California, an honourable man would not behave the way he behaved - even in the Swinging Sixties."

Mr Shields added: "These matters are not minor blemishes on his reputation. They are scars which can never be healed."

'Symbolic award'

He urged the jury that even if his defence failed, he should not be entitled to any damages and the jury should give Mr Polanski "a symbolic award", such as "the price of a cinema ticket".

"By that symbolic award, you can send a message across the Channel about the moral values which decent people cherish."

Mr Polanski's lawyer, John Kelsey-Fry said the director had been in "utter grief" after his wife's death, not - as the defence team claimed - "utter indifference".

"The truth is that Mr Polanski was about as removed from callous indifference as is possible to imagine," Mr Kelsey-Fry said.

Mr Polanski was about as removed from callous indifference as is possible to imagine
Mr Polanski's lawyer John Kelsey-Fry
He said that at a press conference on 19 August 1969, it had been an "inescapable fact" that Mr Polanski was not indifferent to his wife's name and memory, "but precisely the contrary".

"He was at pains - and I mean obvious pain - to honour it, protect it and defend it," Mr Kelsey-Fry said.

"The burden is on the defence to prove their case. The most obvious witness to call if their case is true, and she supports it, is Beate Telle," he added. "You have heard not one word of evidence from her."

In summing up, Mr Justice Eady told the jury that "much has been made of Mr Polanski's lifestyle and his attitude towards casual sex in his earlier years".

But he said it was important to remember that it was not a "court of morals", adding: "We are not here to judge Mr Polanski's personal lifestyle."

Telling them that an "absolute maximum ceiling" of 200,000 in damages could be awarded, he sent the jury out to begin their deliberations.

The case was adjourned until Friday.


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