Hollywood: Polanski’s sex with 13-year-old ‘not rape’

A group of Hollywood stars has called for director Roman Polanski to escape jail for drugging and having sex with a 13-year-old girl in 1978.

Mr Polanski was arrested this week in Switzerland after spending more than 30 years in exile to avoid his original prison sentence.

His victim, Samantha Gailey, told a jury that he plied her with drugs and alcohol before having sexual intercourse with her despite her resistance and requests to be taken home.

But actress Whoopi Goldberg said this week: “I know it wasn’t rape-rape. I think it was something else, but I don’t believe it was rape-rape.”

More than 100 leading Hollywood figures are said to have signed a petition calling for the release of Mr Polanski, whose films include Rosemary’s Baby and The Pianist.

Mr Polanski’s arrest coincided with the controversy surrounding a London gallery’s decision to display a nude photograph of the actress Brooke Shields at ten years old. It has since been removed after discussions with the police.

Children’s groups condemned the decision to display the photograph, but a spokesman for the publicly-funded Tate Modern said it is “an important work”.

Columnist Stephen Glover said: “It is as though art and artists occupy a different moral sphere to the rest of us.”

He said: “As Polanski’s brutal seduction of a young girl is overridden, even negated, by his supposed status as a great artist, so the provocatively sexual picture of a minor will doubtless be celebrated, even more enthusiastically now that it has been removed, on the bogus grounds that it constitutes art.”

He added: “My point is that Polanski’s supposed greatness as an artist should have no bearing upon his responsibilities as a human being.

“Artists should not be above the law of the statute book or the moral law that the rest of us try to live by.

“Equally, no one should suppose that a work of art – or what purports to be a work of art – exists in a kind of moral vacuum unrelated to the lives of ordinary people.”

Although originally facing charges of rape and sodomy, Mr Polanski finally admitted to the lesser charge of sexual intercourse with a minor after plea bargaining.

He fled to France before being sentenced, and had remained in exile until last week when he was arrested in Switzerland.

He is currently being held by the Swiss police. The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office is seeking his extradition.

When asked if the attorney’s office would bow to pressure from Hollywood to drop its pursuit of Mr Polanski, spokeswoman Jane Robison said: “No.”

The Hollywood petition is thought to be out of step with the views of the majority of people in America.

Recent calls to lower the UK’s age of consent have prompted warnings that in an increasingly sexualised environment it is all the more important to protect children from harm.

Shadow Children’s Secretary Michael Gove wrote earlier this week that the age of consent law “keeps our children from straying into the barbed-wire-strewn no-man’s land of emotional loss and personal turmoil which premature entanglements inevitably involve”.

And columnist Melanie Phillips wrote last week that while “children even younger than 15 now behave in a highly sexualised fashion”, “they are still children”.

She continued: “The fact that they are acting out a parody of adult behaviour does not turn them into adults.

“On the contrary, they depend upon the adult world to repel such advances and guide them into more appropriate behaviour and attitudes.”

She added: “The protection of children from sexual exploitation depends on the adult world holding the line for adult authority and responsibility towards those children.”

Related Resources