Belfast Telegraph

Banning orders imposed on BBC NI star and husband

By Jonathan Bell

An industrial tribunal has issued a 10-year banning order preventing Mark Butler the husband of Give My Head Peace star Alexandra Ford from acting as a talent agency boss.

It comes after a lengthly government investigation dating back to 2005 into complaints of inappropriate conduct and behaviour made against Mark Butler, also known as McCrory, of Universal Artists Belfast by a number of actresses.

His wife Alexandra Ford has also been banned for 10 years from carrying on an agency with her husband. She is permitted to continue work as a talent agent as long as her husband plays no part in the business, has no access to anyone that works for it or wants to work for it and does not go in its premises.

The prohibition order was not contested by either Butler or Ford.

The Department for the Economy’s Employment Agency Inspectorate said: “The acting sector in Northern Ireland is one which has seen significant growth in recent years with a number of high profile TV productions and films being made here.

"It is also an industry where you are more likely to find workers who are vulnerable to potential exploitation because they are so keen to find work in the sector.  The prohibition rrder against Mr Butler and Ms Ford should give a clear message to work-seekers in the entertainment industry that there is no need to tolerate unprofessional or inappropriate conduct on the part of an agent."

Ford, rose to prominence for her role as Dympna in BBC comedy Give My Head Peace.

Butler had managed some of Ulster's best-known stage, movie and television stars, including his wife. He has provided talent in the past for some Northern Ireland-shot films including City of Ember, Fifty Dead Men Walking and Cherrybomb.

The department  spokesman continued: "Any work-seeker experiencing misconduct or inappropriate behaviour from their agent can bring concerns or complaints to the regulator of recruitment agencies, the Employment Agency Inspectorate in the Department for the Economy, and action will be taken.

"In this case, the Employment Agency Inspectorate acted immediately to investigate a series of complaints from actresses who sought to be or had been signed to Universal Artists. The actions of the department, based upon the evidence of the actresses who came forward, have resulted in the Industrial Tribunal imposing the maximum prohibition period permitted by the legislation for both parties.”

The Department previously obtained a prohibition order against Mr Butler in 2009 when it became aware he had a previous conviction for indecently assaulting a young actress in 2005. The decision by the Industrial Tribunal on that occasion was that Mr Butler should be allowed to continue trading, under conditions, between 2010 and 2015.

The new order against Mr Butler means that he is entirely banned from being involved in the running of any employment agency in Northern Ireland for 10 years. The Order against Ms Ford means that she can still run an agency but only if she ensures that Mr Butler has no contact with any work-seekers who are using, or considering using, the services of her agency. In addition, Ms Ford must also ensure that Mr Butler has no access to any premises from which she may run an agency.

The order against Mr Butler and Ms Ford applies for 10 years. Failure to comply with it is a criminal offence.

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