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The British Academy has issued a lengthy response after coming under fire for honoring Noel Clarke with its outstanding British contribution to cinema award despite reportedly knowing of allegations of sexual misconduct against the actor, producer and writer.
In a letter to its members, BAFTA said it wanted to outline the “background to the situation” and offer the “full picture,” which came after a major exposé in The Guardian that saw 20 women come forward to accuse Clarke of groping, harassment and bullying.
See the letter, from chair Krishnendu Majumdar and chief executive Amanda Berry, below.
You may have seen the story in today’s Guardian regarding BAFTA member and recent Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema (OBCC) award recipient Noel Clarke.
We are grateful that The Guardian was able to provide a platform where the victims were able to identify themselves, and to come forward and tell their stories.
As soon as The Guardian published firsthand accounts yesterday we immediately suspended the award and Noel Clarke’s membership of BAFTA until further notice.
We wanted to inform you of the background to this situation to give you the full picture.
To be very clear, we did not know about any allegations relating to Noel Clarke prior to the announcement of the OBCC award on 29 March.
We want to reassure you that we have treated this matter with the utmost seriousness, care and proper process at every stage. The BAFTA Board of Trustees has remained right across this matter, has met a number of times and are fully supportive of all actions taken.
The allegations against Mr Clarke are extremely serious and the behaviour they allege are contrary to BAFTA’s values and everything it stands for. But no matter how abhorrent these allegations are, they cannot be dealt with without due process. BAFTA is an arts charity that is not in a position to properly investigate such matters.
In the days following the announcement, BAFTA received anonymous emails of allegations in relation to Noel Clarke. These were either anonymous or second or thirdhand accounts via intermediaries. No firsthand allegations were sent to us. No names, times, dates, productions or other details were ever provided.
Had the victims gone on record as they have with The Guardian, the award would have been suspended immediately. Noel Clarke’s counsel received a legal notice to this effect. It was always very clear what our intentions would be.
We asked for individuals to come forward with their accounts and identify themselves, as they have done with The Guardian, but due to the anonymous claims and the lack of firsthand specificity, we did not have sufficient grounds to take action.
We completely understand why the individuals were extremely fearful to identify themselves to us, and we recognise how hard it is for victims to speak up. First, we encouraged them to report the incidents to their representatives, employers and/or the police. We then gave further advice as to which organisations could provide affected individuals with appropriate support.
Additionally, we were conscious of how hard it is to report these issues and as a result we put in place an independent, appropriately qualified person with whom the victims could discuss the issues raised in a safe and confidential environment.
The expert has a huge amount of experience working with individuals who have suffered sexual harassment, bullying and abuse and who understands the fear and reluctance of individuals to identify themselves. The expert is a leading advisor on establishing safe centres for women and is able to lead individuals through their different options. This process involved seeking advice on the correct individual, appointing them and fully briefing them. We wanted to ensure that we had the right person in place.
We acted as quickly and supportively as we could, even though we had only received the most generic of claims and no actual firsthand information to investigate allegations which were potentially of a criminal nature.
Having received the same anonymous emails, Noel Clarke contacted BAFTA, urgently requesting a conversation and sending numerous texts to do. We confronted him with the anonymous allegations, which he strongly denied.
Our lawyers have advised us every step of the way during this process to ensure we handled the matter correctly. Given that we did not have any of the personal testimony that The Guardian produced we were in an invidious situation and it would have been improper to halt the award at that point based on the extremely limited information that we had where the ultimate sources were unknown.
As you are aware, BAFTA has taken action against individuals who have been accused of similar behaviour in the past but in those cases we were able to do so because there was evidence that allowed us to take action.
We very much regret that women felt unable to provide us with the kind of firsthand testimony that has now appeared in The Guardian. Had we been in receipt of this, we would never have presented the award to Noel Clarke.
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