Belfast Telegraph

Groping husband of Give My Head Peace star banned from running talent agency

By Staff Reporter

The scandal-hit husband of Give My Head Peace star Alexandra Ford has been banned from working as a talent agency boss for a decade.

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

Ford, best-known as Dympna in Give My Head Peace, has also been banned for 10 years from carrying on an agency with her husband - who represented some of Northern Ireland's most recognisable actresses, including The Fall star Bronagh Waugh.

The 43-year-old 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 announced yesterday was not contested by either Butler or Ford.

A spokesman for 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 order against Butler and 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."

Butler had managed some of Northern Ireland'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.

At Belfast Magistrates Court in July 2007, then 40-year-old Butler, going under the name McCrory, was convicted of assaulting a young actress at an audition during an improvisation scene between the two.

During the meeting in May 2005, the victim said McCrory grabbed her hips with both hands and kissed her.

Magistrate Amanda Henderson said it was "clearly a breach of trust".

McCrory was given a four-month jail term that was suspended for two years and was placed on the sex offenders' register until 2014.

His agency has almost 100 of Northern Ireland's best-known stars on his books, including Waugh and Holby City star Adam Best. 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 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 Butler should be allowed to continue trading, under conditions, between 2010 and the year 2015.

The new order against 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 Ford means that she can still run an agency, but only if she ensures that Butler has no contact with any work-seekers who are using, or considering using, the services of her agency.

Belfast Telegraph

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