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May 21, 2021updated 30 Sep 2022 10:18am

Mail Online pays substantial damages after revealing actress’ rape allegation against French director

By Charlotte Tobitt

Mail Online has agreed to pay substantial compensation after revealing an actress had made a rape complaint about a French film director to police.

Sand Van Roy (pictured) said she had always intended to stay anonymous – which is her automatic legal right in France, as it is in England, as someone who has made a rape complaint – but had the choice taken away from her.

She has now waived her right to anonymity, which is why Press Gazette is able to name her in this report.

Van Roy, 31, filed a rape complaint against The Fifth Element director Luc Besson in Paris on 18 May 2018. She appeared in the Taxi 5 and Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets movies, both directed by Besson.

Besson, 62, has strongly denied the allegations against him.

Details of the complaint were leaked and widely reported in the French press, including in the weekly newspaper Journal du Dimanche. Mail Online was the first UK title to report the allegation.

The first Mail Online headline, published on 29 May 2018, read: “Blood tests on actress Sand Van Roy ‘are negative’ after she accused French filmmaker Luc Besson of raping her at a Paris hotel when she drunk a cup of tea and ‘lost consciousness’.”

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In 2019 it published two further stories about the rape complaint being dropped, and about Besson publicly denying allegations made by Van Roy and other women for the first time.

Mail Online has now accepted the articles were a breach of Van Roy’s privacy and data protection rights as she had not waived her right to anonymity.

[Read more: BBC says editor should not have faced charges over reporting error which saw rape victim named on air]

Van Roy, a Dutch-Belgian former comedian, 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.”

Van Roy also complained that false details about her account were published in all three articles, saying she had never accused Besson of drugging her.

Mail Online publisher Associated Newspapers apologised “unreservedly” in a statement in London’s High Court on Friday. Mail Online has also published an apology on its website.

The publisher has agreed to pay Van Roy substantial damages and her legal costs.

It also agreed to take down a photo of Van Roy with Besson, which had been cropped from a larger group shot at the Taxi 5 premiere, as a gesture of goodwill.

Van Roy said: “I am pleased that Mail Online has apologised, that this distressing matter has now been brought to a successful conclusion and that the record has been set straight.” Investigations into her complaint against Besson are ongoing, with the director being given “assisted witness” status by a French court.

Picture: Reuters/Eric Gaillard 

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