Polanski fights for right to attend court by video

Film director Roman Polanski mounted a last-ditch attempt this week to give evidence by video link in a pending libel action in the UK, rather than attending in person.

The libel action against Condé Nast Publications over an article in Vanity Fair magazine was scheduled to begin at London’s High Court last November.

Polanski fears that if he comes to the UK he will face moves to extradite him to the US where he faces sentence for criminal charges.

The High Court ruled that he could give evidence by video link from a Paris hotel, but this decision was overturned by the Appeal Court. Polanski was then granted an adjournment to lodge an appeal against the Appeal Court with the House of Lords, which began on Wednesday.

Polanski’s lawyers are challenging the Appeal Court decision before five law lords, who will then reserve their judgment to give a decision in writing which is not expected to be ready until early next year.

Polanski, 70, has been living in France for 28 years after fleeing America in 1977 when he was charged with a sex offence.

He is seeking damages from Vanity Fair over an article which claimed he propositioned a woman on the way to the funeral of his actress wife, Sharon Tate, in 1969. The magazine’s publisher, Condé Nast Publications, denies libel.

The case is one which is being watched closely throughout the media and is being viewed as a test action on the rights of libel claimants to side-step the need to attend court to give evidence in person.

David Hooper, a media law specialist with law firm Reynolds Porter Chamberlain, which is advising Vanity Fair , says the Appeal Court decision could, if upheld by the law lords, prove a “knock-out blow” to Polanski’s UK action against Vanity Fair.

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