Sex act would have been mad, libel case told

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THE EastEnders actress Gillian Taylforth and her fiance Geoff Knights would have committed an act of 'sheer unvarnished lunacy' if they had had oral sex beside the A1, their counsel told the High Court yesterday.

In his closing speech, Michael Beloff QC, said the Sun, which is fighting a libel action brought by the couple over the allegation, had not offered any 'credible' explanation for such behaviour.

He told Mr Justice Drake and the jury that the slip road on the southbound carriageway of the A1 at Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, was not exactly Lover's Lane. 'A jape? A dare? As John McEnroe used to say, 'You cannot be serious'. It would not be a funny act. It would not be a brave act. It would be an act of sheer unvarnished lunacy.'

Miss Taylforth, 38, who plays Kathy Beale in the BBC soap opera, and Mr Knights, 39, are suing the newspaper for repeating a police allegation that they had oral sex on the slip road after a day at Ascot races in June 1992.

Mr Beloff said that George Carman QC, for the Sun, was right to warn the jury not to be distracted from the evidence by prejudice or sympathy.

But the jury might think that when it came to exciting prejudice and evoking sympathy they had heard, in Mr Carman, a 'past and present master' of the art. Mr Carman's final speech in a libel action is always a source of entertainment - especially if you hear it for the first time.

'But as an attack on being distracted, I'd sooner take lessons on family values from Cinderella's ugly sisters.'

Miss Taylforth and Mr Knights, of Highbury New Park, north London, say they pulled over when Mr Knights suffered an attack of pancreatitis and he undid his trousers to ease the pain.

The Sun denies libel and says the article was true. But it says that if it was untrue the Metropolitan Police was responsible as it supplied the information.

Earlier, Richard Rampton QC, for the police, said Miss Taylforth had used the excuse she had to get back to her baby and 'scarpered' because there was no attack of pancreatitis.

In his summing-up, the judge said that if the jury came to award damages, they should be reasonable. 'Do not think, just because it is a libel action which involves a well-known person, that the damages have to be enormous with lots of noughts on the end.'

The case was adjourned until Monday.