Russell Brand’s prank call to rape helpline in 2008

The incident has attracted renewed attention following sexual assault allegations made against the comedian

Ellie Harrison
Thursday 21 September 2023 06:20 BST
BBC director-general announces review into Russell Brand's time at corporation

Russell Brand was widely condemned in 2008 after prank-calling an emergency rape phoneline during a stand-up routine.

The controversial incident is attracting renewed attention, after Brand, 48, accused of rape, sexual assault and emotional abuse by four women, with the alleged incidents taking place between 2006 and 2013.

Brand vehemently denied the allegations in a video released before the report by The Times, The Sunday Times and Channel 4’s Dispatches was made public, saying that his relationships have been “absolutely always consensual”.

Follow the latest updates on Brand here. If you have information in relation to the allegations against Russell Brand which you would like to share with The Independent’s reporting team, please email newsdesk@independent.co.uk

While onstage in Northampton in 2008, Brand phoned police in front of the audience, pretending to be a witness to numerous sexual assaults that had taken place in a local underpass.

“I have got some information for you,” he told the call handler.

“I’ve seen a gentleman who fits the description. He was wearing a lime green top and polka-dot trousers, and I thought, ‘Well, look at the state of him.’ I’ve had someone come near my underpass.”

He continued: “He was dressed absolutely atrociously, he looked like Timmy Mallett.”

Brand told the call handler that the audience laughter heard in the background was coming from an episode of The Bill he was watching on TV. He told them his name was Sarah.

There was a considerable backlash to the stunt. Lynda Yorke, of Leicester Rape Crisis, said at the time: “I don’t think that’s particularly amusing. It’s in very poor taste.

“The issue of sexual assault is often belittled and such callous behaviour is extremely hurtful to the victims.”

Russell Brand

The Guardian’s James Donaghy said the prank call showed “catastrophically poor judgment”.

A Northamptonshire Police spokesman said at the time: “We would discourage anyone from making calls such as this.”

Brand apologised soon after the show, saying: “I appreciate the seriousness of the issue and am devastated by the possibility that I may have offended vulnerable people. I maintain that through discourse we can illuminate these dark behaviours but that ought not to be at the expense of people’s feelings.”

The BBC and Channel 4 have both launched investigations into the comedian and actor’s time at their channels, along with removing content featuring Brand from their platforms.

Paramount+, the BBC and Channel 4 have all taken the comedian’s content down from their platforms, and YouTube has also suspended adverts on Russell Brand’s channel.

The platform’s suspension, for “violating its policy”, will still allow Brand to upload videos to his 6.6 million followers, but he will not profit from advertising.

Rape Crisis offers support for those affected by rape and sexual abuse. You can call them on 0808 802 9999 in England and Wales, 0808 801 0302 in Scotland, and 0800 0246 991 in Northern Ireland, or visit their website at www.rapecrisis.org.uk.

If you are in the US, you can call Rainn on 800-656-HOPE (4673)

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