MailOnline pays ‘substantial’ damages to actress after revealing rape complaint against director Luc Besson

·3-min read
 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

MailOnline has apologised and agreed to pay "substantial" damages to the actress Sand Van Roy after the news website identified her as having lodged a rape complaint against the film director Luc Besson.

In the early hours of 18 May 2018, Van Roy filed a complaint with police in Paris that she had been raped at the Hotel Bristol by Mr Besson, who strongly denies the allegations.

Under French law the Dutch-Belgian actor was entitled to remain anonymous while investigators handled her complaint.

But details of the complaint were leaked to the French press, and just over a week later on 29 May, MailOnline, which is owned by Associated Newspapers, published an article identifying Van Roy as Besson's accuser.

It published two further stories on 25 February and 8 October 2019.

Van Roy's lawyer, Helena Shipman, told the High Court on Friday that details of the case were leaked "against Van Roy's wishes and in breach of her right to anonymity".

She added: "The first article revealed that Ms Van Roy had complained to police that she had been raped by Mr Besson. This was the first time that a publisher in this jurisdiction reported this information.!

“MailOnline published this information in breach of Ms Van Roy's right to privacy.

"Under French law, Ms Van Roy was entitled to anonymity in respect of the fact that she had complained about being a victim of rape and the information relating to the complaint.

"Ms Van Roy, as the defendant accepts, had not waived her right to anonymity at the time of publication of the first article."

Ms Van Roy, who agreed to be named in the proceedings, has appeared in films and television shows including the 2017 film Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets, directed by Besson.

Ms Shipman told the court the actress dealt with Besson in a professional capacity and did not "at any time consider herself to be in a romantic relationship with him".

Van Roy also said the MailOnline articles published false private information by saying she accused Mr Besson of drugging her.

Ms Shipman told the court: "The publication by the defendant of Ms Van Roy's identity as a complainant in a rape case and of the other, actual and purported, private information caused Ms Van Roy great distress."

MailOnline has posted an apology on its website and the court heard Associated Newspapers has agreed to pay "substantial" damages as well as Ms Van Roy's legal costs.

Matthew Gill, for Associated Newspapers, said: "The defendant apologises unreservedly to Ms Van Roy."

Speaking after the hearing, Ms Van Roy said: "The distress I suffered as a result of the publication of my identity as a complainant in a rape case cannot be overstated.

"I had always intended to remain anonymous in my complaint and to have that choice taken away from me so soon after the event was almost too much to bear.

"To this day, many people still believe that I chose to go public myself.

"I am pleased that MailOnline has apologised, that this distressing matter has now been brought to a successful conclusion and that the record has been set straight."

Besson, director of films including Leon and La Femme Nikita, denies the allegations against him.

Additional reporting by the Press Association

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