Farrukh Dhondy | Is ‘trial by media’ of sexual predator Russell Brand in Britain justified?

The Asian Age.  | Farrukh Dhondy

Opinion, Columnists

In Britain, one is innocent until proved guilty by a court. It now seems that Brand is guilty until a court proves him innocent

Russell Brand. (Twitter)

“O Bachchoo, admit you have never heard

The nightingale sing -- though all poets should

You know the clacking of the magpie bird

Nightingales remain unheard in the wood

To where, being a denizen of streets,

You’ve never ever wandered, never been

To forests where the true poet retreats

--To you these sounds unheard, these sights unseen…”

From Goal Mahal The Palace of Destinations, by Bachchoo


Yes, there are floods in Libya, earthquakes… trouble all over the world… but the British newspapers are obsessed with stories and reports about a sexual predator called Russell Brand.

And you know what, gentle reader? I think there is a case to be made for their decision to be thus obsessed. Because… because the story is not about this sexual predator -- we have had those before. This Russell Brand has been a TV presenter, stage comedian and has had several national shows on the BBC, Channel 4, with millions of followers on the social media. He has had columns in national newspapers; with reflected fame for being the onetime partner of Jemima Khan….

No, this story is about a notch in the pistol of human rights -- specifically the rights and ability of women victims of sexual abuse to come forward and be represented by the public institutions of Britain who have made it their business to collect evidence against the sexual predator and present it, even before any police investigation takes place.

Let’s put this claim (or my ramblings) in context.

The statistics for 2022 show that there were 67,169 cases of rape reported to the police. Of these only 1,276 (2%?) were brought to court. The statistics also demonstrate that most rape victims and rapists knew each other.

This familiarity goes for all the cases that Russell Brand is accused of. Two national newspapers and Channel 4 have, over the last three years, pursued these allegations by women of rape and “sexual overkill” -- by which I mean being forced to do things they don’t want to do even though they are voluntarily in Russell Brand’s presence or even in his bed.

I watched a part of the Channel 4 documentary outlining the cases, with the darkened victims speaking about their experiences of being forced into sexual activity with Brand who, in each case, was an elevated member of the programme team while his victims were juniors. For instance, he was the linchpin and presenter of Channel 4’s programme Big Brother, which the company Endomol produced. His alleged victim was a junior on the production team.

So also, the victims of Brand’s sexual assaults who are now treated as serious complainants by Channel 4 and the newspapers -- though not yet the courts -- all alleging that they were juniors in the programmes and stage and TV productions in which he was the star and were in some way fascinated by him. They say he took undue advantage of that subservient fascination and sexually violated them in one way or another, forcing himself on them or demanding activity from a presumed height of power which they absolutely didn’t want. I won’t, gentle reader, describe in graphic detail the stuff the documentary and other reports did.

Yes, it’s national news and Russell Brand’s current tours, stage shows and TV appearances have been suspended.

Frankly, I’ve never understood Russell Brand’s attraction, to TV commissioners, the viewing public or his social media followers. Though I’m perhaps missing something, he always seemed to me a classic manic idiot with staring, glaring, frightening eyes, an unkempt haircut and beard (do look up the Internet and find his images to ascertain what I’m talking about) who talked the most awful gibberish disguised as philosophical musings or even guidance.

But then, as I read and watch this British obsession unfolding, I wonder whether this is a trial by media. Brand, of course, has hired, alleging libel, very famous right-wing lawyers, known to represent the “global elite” which, as a notorious and pathetic conspiracy theorist his blogs and tweets constantly denounced.

In Britain, one is innocent until proved guilty by a court. It now seems that Brand is guilty until a court proves him innocent. So, is this a trial by media? Or is it justified as an investigation into the “public interest” which is now, laudably, the national cause of female victims of abuse?

Years ago, I had been commissioned to write a TV drama about two British national footballers, Lee Bowyer and Jonathan Woodgate, who had assaulted and hospitalised some Asian students whom they believed had shown them some degree of contempt as meatheads in a Leeds pub. My title for the projected drama was “I Could Murder an Indian”, which

is the phrase a certain class of British lads use when they want to eat a curry after ten pints of lager on a Friday evening.

I attended court each day to follow their prosecution, until one day a right-wing newspaper beguiled the father of the Asian victim to give them an interview about the entire assault incident. The paper published it prominently and immediately the defence lawyers pleaded that the evidence in the case had been exposed and would prejudice the jury. The trial was aborted and Bowyer and Woodgate were released. No TV play to write.

Will the publicity around Brand cause the dismissal of any case that the police launch? I doubt it.

The judge will think the prejudice justified.