Northern Ireland film director ‘used his position for sex assault’

Bafta-nominated Northern Ireland film director Stephen Fingleton denies the charge
Bafta-nominated Northern Ireland film director Stephen Fingleton denies the charge

A Bafta-nominated film director used his position to sexually assault an actress interested in a “professional opportunity”, a court has heard.

Stephen Fingleton, 35, from Enniskillen in Co Fermanagh, allegedly attacked the woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, on October 27 2017 during a lunch at her flat in west London.

Isleworth Crown Court heard he grabbed the victim’s head and pushed it towards his crotch then told her “you get down there”.

The woman, who had exchanged numbers with Fingleton at an industry party, reported him to police after telling a friend he was “totally Harvey Weinstein”, a jury heard.

In her closing speech, prosecutor Jocelyn Ledward rejected a defence claim that the allegation was a lie “of the zeitgeist, of the day, the current thing that was in the news”.

Ms Ledward said: “He has used her natural interest in the prospect of a professional opportunity to pursue his own sexual interest in her, setting up a meeting in intimate circumstances, under false pretences.”

Jurors heard that Fingleton sent the woman a message after he left which said: “Thank you so much for making lunch. It was lovely spending time with you and seeing part of your film.”

Ms Ledward said the message was “a deeply calculated and manipulative message – a pre-emptive strike”.

She described Fingleton’s denial in his evidence to jurors as “a rather more polished rewritten version from the master scriptwriter, as compared to what he told the police”.

The woman claims the attack happened as she hung washing. She said Fingleton also hugged her as she started crying, stroked her hair, put his hand under her T-shirt and tried to kiss her.

Defending Fingleton, his barrister Orla Day said the lunch was not planned as a professional meeting and “he quite fancied” the woman.

“He has been honest about why he wanted to see her. He thought she was attractive, it might go somewhere,” Ms Day said.

She told the jury: “You’re not dealing with a Hollywood star director, mogul, of such terrifying reputation that any woman is going to be in awe and there’s going to be an imbalance of power when he so much as speaks to her.

“He’s not Spike Lee, he’s not Steven Spielberg. To be brutal, how many of us knew who Stephen was before this case?”

Fingleton, who denies one count of sexual assault, previously told jurors that going to the woman’s flat was “clearly a terrible decision”.

The trial, in front of a jury of six women and six men, continues.