Comedian Sylvester ‘Sil’ Fox has sued the Director of Public Prosecutions and the State for damages over a decision to prosecute him for sexual assault.
The 87-year-old was cleared of the allegation last year after a judge found the complaint was contradicted by CCTV.
Mr Fox has now initiated proceedings in the High Court claiming the prosecution was taken without reasonable or probable cause.
“The DPP should have seen from the footage I was innocent but they put me into court and ruined my life,” he told the Irish Independent.
“It was very wrong what the DPP did to me. I knew I had done nothing wrong and yet I was dragged before the courts for almost a year.
“Why did they put an 86-year-old man through that? Covid was rampant at the time and I still had to go to court. It was in all the papers. I lost a lot of friends and lost a lot of work.”
In the proceedings the veteran entertainer has claimed his constitutional right to a good name was breached and that he suffered serious reputational damage. “I am taking this case because I don’t want to see another innocent person having to go through what I did,” he said.
Mr Fox’s lawsuit could lead to scrutiny of decision-making in the Office of the DPP.
Civil actions against the DPP following an acquittal are extremely rare.
Suing for defamation is not possible as the DPP is entitled to absolute privilege in the course of a prosecution.
Similarly, a complaint of malicious prosecution would be unsustainable unless there is evidence of malice.
Instead Mr Fox’s claim is based upon on his constitutional rights to liberty, privacy and his good name.
He also claims to have been damaged by “reckless infliction of emotional distress” as a result of the commencement and maintenance of the prosecution.
Mr Fox was prosecuted at Dublin District Court last year after a woman claimed he put his hand on her groin and “tickled” her vagina for 30 seconds while she was having her photo taken with him in a pub on December 17, 2018.
The charges were thrown out after a judge viewed CCTV and concluded there was no indication anything untoward occurred.
In a plenary summons his lawyers said the comedian “suffered serious reputational damages arising from false allegations, in circumstances where any reasonable consideration or review of the CCTV evidence would militate against a prosecution”.
The proceedings were initiated on Wednesday against the DPP, the Garda Commissioner, the Minister for Justice and the Attorney General.
Mr Fox is being represented by Belfast law firm KRW Law.
Partner Kevin Winters told the Irish Independent that, in response to pre-action letters, the defendants had denied the allegations. “We have now issued a plenary summons in the High Court to take the case forward,” he said.
During the trial, the District Court heard Mr Fox, from Templeogue in Dublin, was asked to pose for a photo with a middle-aged woman who was on a Christmas night out with friends at Harry’s On The Green in Dublin city centre.
The woman claimed that as her friend took the photo Mr Fox put his hand on to her lap and groin and that he “tickled” her vagina. She claimed she was stunned and confronted him later, but he responded that she was being ridiculous.
After CCTV was shown to her, the woman accepted it took three seconds to take the photograph and not 30 as she had claimed. The trial heard that her friends at the table did not see what she alleged.
After reviewing CCTV footage and having given careful consideration to the woman’s evidence, Judge Paula Murphy said a jury properly directed could not convict on the evidence before the court.
The conflict between the evidence of the complainant and the CCTV was a significant issue, Judge Murphy said.
The woman had accepted the footage showed Mr Fox’s hand on the table the entire time it took for the photo to be taken. Despite this she still maintained he had sexually assaulted her.
“In the footage, there is no indication something untoward occurred,” the judge said.