Polanski appeals for right to sue in UK from France

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The Independent Online

Roman Polanski, the film director, claimed yesterday that Britain had breached his human rights by preventing him bringing defamation proceedings against a US magazine.

Roman Polanski, the film director, claimed yesterday that Britain had breached his human rights by preventing him bringing defamation proceedings against a US magazine.

Mr Polanski, 71, who now lives in Paris, wants to sue Vanity Fair over an article which alleged that he seduced a woman in a New York restaurant when he stopped there en route to the funeral of his wife, Sharon Tate, who was murdered in 1969.

His lawyers asked the House of Lords yesterday for permission for Mr Polanksi to give his evidence by video-link because he is likely to be extradited to America if he enters Britain. The Polish-born Oscar-winner fled the US in 1977 after admitting having sex with a 13-year-old girl.

He has taken the case to the law lords after the Court of Appeal last year dismissed his application, ruling that it was not possible to limit the scope of UK jurisdiction by refusing to submit to one law while benefiting from another.

The Court of Appeal judges told the film director that justice "is just a Eurostar journey away".

Richard Spearman QC, representing Mr Polanski before a panel of five law lords, said the appeal judges were in effect saying that the libel trial could not go ahead because Mr Polanski was a fugitive from justice in America.

Mr Spearman argued that while being "fully aware he's not a person with an unblemished copybook", under human rights legislation Mr Polanski had the right to a fair hearing and to protect his reputation.

If the law lords rule in Mr Polanksi's favour it would set an important precedent for libel litigants who want to use UK courts without having to surrender to British jurisdiction

Mr Spearman said the starting point in any decision on how his client should give his evidence should be on whether he could receive a fair trial of the libel case.

Mr Polanski, who won an Academy Award for best director for The Pianist in 2003 cannot be sent back to America from France because extradition is not allowed on the charge to which he pleaded guilty.

Vanity Fair's publisher, Condé Nast, is contesting the action, which centres on an article published in 2002. The hearing continues today.