Berkoff is ordered to face trial over rape damages claim

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The Independent Online

The actor and playwright Steven Berkoff was ordered yesterday to face a civil trial over a £500,000 damages claim by a woman who alleges that he raped her.

Mr Berkoff failed in his legal challenge against a court writ from an actress and writer who claims she was raped by him in 1994. Mr Berkoff's lawyers said they were "disappointed" by the judgment at Central London County Court after they claimed the writ was not served within the required time limit.

However, District Judge Christopher Wigfield overturned a default judgment made in January this year that Mr Berkoff should pay £500,000 compensation. Mr Justice Wigfield said that the actor had to be given the chance to defend himself against the allegations, which he has always strenuously denied.

Lawyers for Mr Berkoff, 64, have 14 days to seek leave to appeal. His solicitor, Alistair Pepper, said: "Mr Berkoff had hoped the action would be thrown out, and if it goes to trial he will be strenuously defending the action." Mr Berkoff has 28 days to submit his defence to the county court, after which it will be decided if the case will be heard there or at the High Court.

The actress and writer, who cannot be identified, alleges that Mr Berkoff assaulted and raped her on 4 September 1994. She issued a claim form with the courts only days before the six-year time limit lapsed last year. She is seeking damages for pain and suffering and out-of-pocket expenses.

The judge awarded costs for this application to the woman, who is on legal aid.

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