Actor Kevin Spacey 'strenuously' denies UK sex charges, lawyer says

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By Michael Holden

LONDON (Reuters) - Kevin Spacey "strenuously" denies allegations of sex offences, his lawyer said on Thursday as the Oscar-winning actor made his first appearance at a British court to face charges dating back almost 20 years.

Spacey is accused of five offences in Britain - four counts of sexual assault by touching, and a more serious charge of causing a person to engage in penetrative sexual activity without consent. Prosecutors say Spacey forced a man to have oral sex.

Spacey, wearing glasses and a light blue suit, was met by a mass of media as he arrived at London's Westminster Magistrates' Court, with security guards forced to battle their way through TV crews and photographers.

Inside, he spoke only to confirm his name as Kevin Spacey Fowler and his London address when he appeared in the dock. Spacey showed little emotion during the short hearing.

"Mr Spacey strenuously denies any and all criminality in this case," defence lawyer Patrick Gibbs told the court. He said the actor had answered all the allegations in questioning three years ago in the United States, and cooperated fully with the investigation.

"He needs to answer these charges if he is to proceed with his life," Gibbs said. "He has always denied that there was any criminality in these allegations."

If found guilty of sexual assault, he would face a six-month prison sentence or an unlimited fine, while the other offence carries a maximum punishment of life imprisonment.

Spacey, who the prosecution and judge court initially referred to as "Mr Fowler", will next appear at London's Southwark Crown Court on July 14.

He was granted unconditional bail, with Gibbs saying he needed to be able to leave Britain for work and because his family was in the United States, including his 9-year-old dog.

Police said the alleged assaults occurred between March 2005 and April 2013 - four in the British capital and one in Gloucestershire in the west of England. They involved one man who is now in his 40s and two men now in their 30s.

Spacey, once one of Hollywood's biggest stars, has largely disappeared from public view since being accused of sexual misconduct five years ago.

The 62-year-old, who won Oscars for best actor in "American Beauty" and best supporting actor in "The Usual Suspects", was dropped from the TV show "House of Cards" and removed from the movie "All the Money in the World" after the accusations of sexual misconduct came to light.

(Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Mark Heinrich)

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