Wednesday 11 December 2019

Rory McGrath avoids jail term for harassing former lover

Rory McGrath and his wife Nicola leave Huntingdon Magistrates' Court
Rory McGrath and his wife Nicola leave Huntingdon Magistrates' Court
Comedian Rory McGrath arrives with an unidentified woman at Huntingdon Magistrates' Court, where he pleaded guilty to stalking a married woman for 14 months

Comedian Rory McGrath harassed a married former lover for 14 months, hiding in bushes and threatening to share intimate photos of her, a court has heard.

The TV star was given a 10-week prison sentence suspended for 18 months after pleading guilty to harassment when he appeared for trial at Huntingdon Magistrates' Court in Cambridgeshire.

They Think It's All Over star McGrath, 60, whose wife Nicola was in court to support him, began harassing his victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons, when she ended their affair.

McGrath, who also appeared in comedy documentary Three Men In A Boat, originally denied stalking but admitted harassment when the charge was changed.

He was given a five-year restraining order banning him from contacting his victim, her three children, her husband or her current partner. He was also ordered to pay £200 costs.

The court heard that McGrath, of Grantchester Street, Cambridge, became "unstable and tempestuous" after his lover dumped him and asked him to delete "intimate photographs" he had taken of them together.

Anthony Abell, prosecuting, said McGrath first met the complainant in the 1990s and then more recently through work.

"They got on well and began to exchange messages and their friendship developed into a physical relationship from November 2010 to May 2015," said Mr Abell.

"Both the defendant and the complainant were married to other people and their relationship had managed to be kept secret from their respective spouses."

He said the complainant was "unhappily married" and while the affair was initially something "they both cherished", she decided to end it as she began to find McGrath "difficult and unpleasant company".

McGrath found this "difficult to deal with", Mr Abell said, and after a series of emails and messages the complainant agreed to meet him at his home.

"She made it clear to him that their relationship was over," said Mr Abell. "His reaction was to break down in tears and try to kiss her. She made it clear she did not want that.

"He then spoke in a theatrical voice as if there was an audience and said, 'Okay ladies and gentlemen, we have closure'."

But the harassment continued, with McGrath cycling up to the woman and her teenage daughter as they were jogging, causing her daughter to cry.

He "smelt strongly of alcohol" on several occasions, was seen hiding in bushes in a separate incident, and messaged the woman's husband to say he had "mesmerisingly beautiful but quite graphic photographs" of her, the court heard.

In one subsequent message, McGrath said the woman "should contact a lawyer as all this would make a wonderful court case", said Mr Abell.

The woman went to police in August last year and made a formal witness statement.

Angela Rafferty, mitigating, said McGrath had been in love with the complainant and there was a "mid-life crisis element" to it.

She said McGrath's marriage had been "threatened" but was now "healing".

District Judge Ken Sheraton, sentencing, told McGrath: "This was a persistent, consistent and controlling imposition of yourself on the victim and those close to her."

In a statement read by his lawyer outside court, McGrath said: "This has been a dark time and thankfully it's now over.

"I wish to thank the judge, and apologise to my wife and family and thank them for their incredible support during this time.

"I now want to move on with my life, thank you."

As reporters asked him if he had any regrets, McGrath walked away with his arm around his wife's shoulders.

CPS District Crown Prosecutor Kerry Roder said: "The victim was the subject of targeted and persistent harassment by Mr McGrath.

"She was sent a number of email and text messages between June 2015 and August 2016; was approached by Mr McGrath in public, and also followed in the street.

"Despite asking him to stop contacting her, he continued to do so.

"Everyone should be able to go about their daily lives free from harassment caused by someone deliberately pursuing them, both through electronic media and in person.

"Harassment can have a devastating impact on the lives of those who become victims, as well as their family and friends.

"Stalking and harassment are criminal offences and we would encourage anyone who is a victim of such crimes not to suffer in silence but to report the matter to the police."

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