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Last Updated: Friday, 19 November, 2004, 15:57 GMT
Polanski Libel Case
Roman Polanski
BBC Radio 4's Law in Action was broadcast on Friday, 19 November 2004 at 1600 GMT.

This week Hollywood came to the English courts, not to film, but to argue. The only person missing was the star.

Lawyers on behalf of the film director Roman Polanski appealed to the House of Lords to allow him to sue for libel, via a video link from France.

The reason for this unusual request is to avoid the risk of Mr Polanski being arrested in the UK and extradited to the United States, to be sentenced for unlawful sexual intercourse with a 13 year old girl - a charge he pleaded guilty to in 1977.

The libel case arises from an article which appeared two years ago in the US based magazine Vanity Fair.

The details were set out by Lord Justice Simon Brown in the Court of Appeal's judgment that Mr Polanski did not have the right to give evidence by video link. There it emerges that the celebrated director was accused of seducing the female companion of another man, in a New York restaurant in 1969.

What is more the article alleged that Mr Polanski had stopped off in New York on his way back to Hollywood for the burial of his actress wife, Sharon Tate. She had been recently murdered by the Manson family.

But how, in the light of his criminal conviction, is Roman Polanski able to bring a libel claim in England? And why is London becoming the world's libel capital? We talk to media barrister, Matthew Nicklin, to find out.

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