A former child actor falsely claimed he was molested by Kenneth Clarke, who was Chancellor of the Exchequer at the time, during a cash-for-questions TV sting 20 years ago, a court has heard.
Ben Fellows, 40, from Birmingham, alleged that the politician had plied him with alcohol and carried out the sexual assault in the office of a lobbyist while he was working undercover for ITV’s Cook Report during an investigation into the cash for questions scandal in 1994.
In the autumn of 2012, he told national news reporters about the alleged assault and stories were published in print and online, jurors at the Old Bailey were told.
He also said he had been abused by a number of people in the entertainment industry, including a senior female executive at the BBC whom he claimed seduced him when he was aged between 14 and 16. Mr Fellows, who was described as “an inventive and sometimes persuasive fantasist”, claimed he had been invited to a cocaine-fuelled party on BBC premises hosted by two of Britain’s biggest stars of the day, the court heard.
He went on to make a statement to police after being interviewed by officers as part of Operation Fairbank – the high-profile investigation into historical child sex abuse at Westminster.
But when officers checked out his version of events, they concluded they were false and began treating him as a suspect rather than a victim, the court heard.
Opening Mr Fellows’ trial, Duncan Atkinson, for the prosecution, said: “In that witness statement, the defendant said that in 1994, when he was 19 years old, he had been employed as an undercover actor by an investigative journalism programme on ITV, the Cook Report, during a sting operation against Ian Greer, the political lobbyist.
“The focus of that sting operation was a suggested role by Greer in arranging for politicians to ask questions in Parliament in return for money – or cash-for-questions as it was known at the time.
“The defendant said that while engaged in that capacity he had been sexually assaulted in Greer’s London office by Kenneth Clarke MP.
“He named a number of persons as having been involved in the Cook Report investigation who he said were aware of the assault, which he said had been recorded by a covert video device with which he had been issued.”
Mr Atkinson told how police interviewed members of the Cook Report team, who said they were unaware of the allegation. They had not seen a video showing abuse and none of them recalled Mr Clarke even being in the lobbyist’s office.
After Mr Fellows was arrested, he insisted the allegations were true, saying the Cook Report staff were too afraid of losing their jobs or “falling foul of the Establishment” to corroborate them, Mr Atkinson said.
In October 2012, Mr Fellows was interviewed by Jack Malvern, a journalist from The Times. Mr Fellows told him the story about Mr Clarke and made a series of other allegations which the reporter found “troubling” when he tried to check them out.
As a result of his checks, no story was published in The Times. However, the Daily Express ran two stories in October 2012, without naming names.
The defendant, of Solihull, denies perverting the course of justice between 14 November 2012 and 1 December 2012. The trial continues.
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