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Actor Ben Fellows cleared of perverting justice over Kenneth Clarke grope claim

Published 30/07/2015

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An actor who claimed former chancellor Kenneth Clarke molested him during a cash-for-questions TV sting 20 years ago has been cleared of perverting the course of justice in a statement to police.

Ben Fellows, 40, from Birmingham, alleged that the leading Tory politician had plied him with alcohol and carried out the sexual assault in the office of a lobbyist while he was working undercover for ITV's Cook Report in 1994.

Mr Clarke insisted he had never in his life "had the compulsion" to grope another man as he dismissed the claim as "preposterous", "off the Richter scale" and "like Martians landing".

After eight hours of deliberations, a jury at the Old Bailey found Fellows, of Redstone Farm Road, Olton, Solihull, not guilty of perverting the course of justice between November 14 2012 and December 1 2012.

The court had heard that, in the autumn of 2012, Fellows told national news reporters about the alleged assault when he was 19 years old and stories were published in print and in his own blog.

He went on to make a statement to police officers from Operation Fairbank - the high-profile investigation into Westminster historic child sex abuse.

Prosecutor Duncan Atkinson said: "In that witness statement, the defendant said that, in 1994, when he was 19 years old, he had been employed as an undercover actor by an investigative journalism programme on ITV, The Cook Report, during a sting operation against Ian Greer, the political lobbyist.

"The focus of that sting operation was a suggested role by Greer in arranging for politicians to ask questions in Parliament in return for money - or cash-for-questions as it was known at the time.

"The defendant said in a witness statement that whilst engaged in that capacity, he had been sexually assaulted in Greer's London office by Kenneth Clarke MP."

When officers checked out his version of events, they concluded they were false and began treating him as a suspect rather than a victim.

The former child actor had also claimed he had been abused by a number of people in the entertainment industry, including a senior female executive at the BBC who, he claimed, seduced him when he was aged between 14 and 16.

Fellows, who was described as "an inventive and sometimes persuasive fantasist", claimed he had been invited to a cocaine-fuelled party on BBC premises hosted by two of Britain's biggest stars of the day.

Giving evidence in his defence, Fellows maintained that he had been groped by Mr Clarke in the office of lobbyist Mr Greer.

Asked by defence lawyer Bernard Richmond QC if he had any doubt about that, Fellows replied: "No."

He told jurors that he was not very knowledgeable about politics and did not even know who John Major was, but insisted it was Mr Clarke because they had been introduced.

Mr Richmond said: "He is clear in his evidence that he had never, ever met you before. Is there any possibility that you could be mistaken?"

Fellows said: "I don't believe so. However, when I came forward I was under the impression that the video tapes still existed so if I was lying or mistaken that could be proven."

Asked how he felt about it afterwards, he said: "It was not upsetting at all. It was weird but not upsetting. To put this in context - this was no more than a minor groping you would get in a nightclub on a Saturday night."

Fellows told the jury he was upset when police told him that abuse in the showbiz world was just about Jimmy Savile and limited to the BBC.

Asked if he had anything personal against Mr Clarke, he said: "No, nothing whatsoever, apart from what happened in that office. I did not take it personally. I was part of the team."

However, veteran broadcaster Roger Cook told the trial that he had never even heard of Fellows until someone pointed out his blog claiming to have worked on The Cook Report in 1990.

He told the court that particular show was never aired and if there had been any allegations around at the time, it would have been "an enormous story".

Fellows' defence team suggested that he had been pressured by the police into making a statement and charges followed after his allegations were made public.

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