'This case should never have been taken' - Veteran comedian Sil Fox cleared of sexual assault

Sylvester "Sil" Fox outside court. Pic: Collins

Veteran comedian Sil Fox has walked free from court after he was cleared of sexually assaulting a woman in a bar in Dublin.

Sylvester "Sil" Fox, 87, pleaded not guilty to the sexual assault on December 17, 2018, after he agreed to have a selfie photo taken with the woman.

The charge was dismissed today by Judge Paula Murphy because of inconsistencies between the complainant’s evidence and CCTV footage shown during the non-jury trial at Dublin District Court.

After the decision was delivered, Mr Fox, who was brought to court by his son Cyril, told reporters he has been through “months of hell”.

He said:

My health, physically and mentally, has deteriorated and I have endured countless nights with little or no sleep.

All his shows were cancelled because of the case but he is now looking forward to getting back to work, the entertainer said.

The veteran comedian, who grew up in the Liberties but has an address at Wellington Lawn, Templeogue, Dublin 6, gave a statement to reporters on the steps of the court after the ruling was given.

“I am delighted that I have been completely exonerated of all charges by the court today. This case should never have been taken. Nothing untoward or inappropriate ever happened.

"As the CCTV footage make crystal clear I was asked to participate in the selfie photo, which I did, and I walked away five seconds later.

And I strongly believe the DPP has some serious questions to answer as to why they took this case.

The State had concluded calling prosecution evidence in February. The case was also delayed as a result of the Covid-19 crisis.

The defence did not call any witnesses.

Counsel Emer Ni Chuagain, for Mr Fox, lodged a written preliminary application for a dismissal to be considered.

Ms Ni Chuagain (instructed by solicitor Michael French) argued that there was no case to answer, citing legal principles in relation to tests which apply when there are inconsistencies in evidence.

Judge Paula Murphy had re-watched the CCTV evidence before delivering her ruling today. She said the court was impressed with the complainant.

However, dismissing the case, Judge Murphy said having given careful consideration of her evidence and the objective CCTV evidence, and the law, a jury properly directed could not convict on the evidence before the court.

She said that it was a common case that they were in the bar. Patrons were enjoying themselves and Mr Fox was beckoned over to the woman’s table by her.

He participated in taking a selfie photo at her request.

A conflict of evidence in the evidence of the complainant and the CCTV shown to the court was a significant issue, Judge Murphy held.

The woman made specific allegations that Mr Fox had put his left on her groin and tickled her vagina for 30 seconds as the photo was taken.

In court, she had denied telling the investigating garda that it took a second or split seconds, which was noted in her statement of complaint.

She smiled in the photo, the judge noted.

The CCTV evidence was shown to her and she still maintained he had sexually assaulted her. She had accepted the footage showed his hand on the table the entire time it took for the photo to be taken.

The only time his hand was not visible was for three seconds after the photo was taken, not 30 seconds.

The complainant was unable to explain this inconsistency and redacted her evidence that his cuff may have been on the edge of the table.

Judge Murphy said the court has had a benefit of reasonably good quality CCTV footage. It also showed Mr Fox leaving at a leisurely place, not skulking away, as the complainant had described.

In the footage, there was no indication something untoward occurred and there was no indication the complainant was upset or distressed. It showed her touching him in a good-natured, pleasant gesture and he moved away, the judge said.

The woman showed no emotion as the case was dismissed.

The trial heard he had been asked for a selfie picture with the middle-aged woman who had been on a Christmas night out with friends in a bar in the city centre’s south-side. Mr Fox agreed to have his picture taken.

The woman claimed that as her friend said “Smile”, “Mr Fox proceeded to put his hand on to my lap, on to my groin and he tickled my vagina, and doing so he said, ‘You will always remember where this picture was taken’.”

She said she was stunned but stayed at the pub because she did not want to spoil the night for her group.

She saw him later that night in the pub with Barry Murphy from Apres Match. She confronted Mr Fox and told him he was "a dirty old man”.

His reply to her sexual assault accusation, she claimed, was “You should be so lucky” and she then told him she would “put you on Facebook”.

The complainant alleged he told her “this is ridiculous, this is stupid”.

CCTV evidence was shown to her and she agreed it took three seconds, not 30 which she had claimed, to take the photo and she smiled and her hand was going toward Mr Fox as he leaned in.

The trial heard that her friends at the table did not see it but saw her expression change after the photo was taken and she became more upset as the night went on and after she confronted him. It was accepted they also had a sing-song later.

One of her friends told the court she understood the complainant had said he would have touched her vagina if she had not been “carrying weight”.

In an account given to gardaí, Mr Fox said she was a liar and trying to “ruin my name”. He denied the allegation completely and said: “that is a load of crap”.

Mr Fox told Detective Garda Shane Behan she had put her hand around him.

The detective had agreed with the defence that Mr Fox had no prior convictions and had never been accused of an offence before.

In his own notes, he stated he was speaking to Barry Murphy when the complainant approached with the allegation. In his note, he asked if drink had given her false courage and “where is it in the photo?”. He wrote that he was a mass-going Catholic and as a result of health problems 11 years ago his libido had vanished.

He accused her of trying to ruin his reputation with false accusations.

In the account he gave gardaí, he wrote that he had never been accused of anything improper during his years in showbiz. “I have been in hundreds of selfies, as far as I am concerned I am being shafted”.

Full statement from Sil Fox.

I would like to say that I am delighted that I have been completely exonerated of all charges by the court today. This case should never have been taken. Nothing untoward or inappropriate ever happened. As the CCTV footage make crystal clear I was asked to participate in the selfie photo which I did and I walked away five second later, and I strongly believe the DPP has some serious questions to answer as to why they took this case.

I also find it strange that my name as a defendant was published but the accuser’s name was not, I don’t know why they do that. I’ve been through months of hell ever since this case was first publicised. My health, physically and mentally, has deteriorated and I have endured countless nights with little or no sleep.

At 87-years-of age, I found it very difficult to cope with all this stress. I have been in show business for 60 years without a blemish until this accusation surfaced. It has unfairly tarnished my reputation, good name and in the space of 48 hours after hitting the news, every show or concert or charity show I was booked on was cancelled. I have not worked a day since.

I am glad it is finally over and I have been found completely innocent. I hope my reputation will be restored in time and I’m looking forward to getting back to work. I love the stage and I love entertaining people.

KEYWORDS:

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