LONDON — Senior British politicians urged police on Monday to investigate allegations of sexual assault against Russell Brand, as Britain’s entertainment industry faced questions about whether the comedian’s bad behavior got away with his fame.
Brand denies allegations of sexual assault by four women in a Channel 4 television documentary and in The Times and Sunday Times newspapers.
Among the accusers, who have not been named, is one who said she was sexually assaulted during a relationship with him when she was 16. Another woman says Brand raped her in Los Angeles in 2012.
Brand, 48, denied all the claims and said in a video statement that his relationships had “always been consensual”.
The Times said on Monday that multiple women had contacted the paper with allegations against Brand and they would be “strictly scrutinised”.
Max Blain, a spokesman for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, said the allegations were “very serious and concerning” and those making allegations should be “treated seriously and sensitively”.
Conservative lawmaker Caroline Nokes, who chairs the House of Commons Women and Equality Committee, called on police in Britain and the United States to investigate the “incredibly shocking” allegations.
“This deserves and requires a criminal investigation because for too long we have seen that men – and the perpetrators of these types of crimes are almost always men – are not held accountable for their behavior and actions,” she told BBC radio.
London’s Metropolitan Police said it would speak to the Sunday Times and Channel 4 to ensure “all victims of crime they have spoken to are aware of how they can report any criminal allegations to the police”.
“We are aware of reports by The Sunday Times and Channel 4’s Dispatches about allegations of sexual offences,” according to a police statement provided to NBC News on Monday.
On Sunday, police “received a report of a sexual assault alleged to have taken place in Soho, central London in 2003,” the statement continued. “Officers are in contact with the woman and will provide support.”
Police have urged any potential victims to come forward: “We continue to urge anyone who believes they may have been the victim of a sex crime, regardless of how long ago it was, to contact us.
The claims have renewed debate about the “boy culture” that flourished in Britain in the 1990s and early 2000s, and the misogyny that continues to percolate on the internet.
The allegations, reported by the newspaper and Channel 4, cover the period between 2006 and 2013 when Brand was a major star in Britain with a growing American profile.
Known for his wild and risque standup routines, he hosted radio and television shows, wrote a memoir chronicling his struggles with drugs and alcohol, appeared in several Hollywood films, and was briefly married to pop star Katy Perry from 2010 to 2012.
Brand was suspended by the BBC in 2008 for making obscene prank calls to “Fawlty Towers” actor Andrew Sachs in which he bragged about having sex with Sachs’ granddaughter. He quit his radio show after the incident sparked thousands of complaints against the publicly funded broadcaster.
The BBC, Channel 4 and the production company behind reality series ‘Big Brother’ – whose spinoffs Brand hosted – all said they had launched investigations into Brand’s behavior and how complaints were handled.
Talent agency Tavistock Wood also left the brand, saying he had “horribly misled” it.
Brando supporters questioned why the charges were brought years after the alleged incidents. The women said they only felt ready to tell their stories after being approached by reporters, with some citing Brando’s newfound status as an online wellness influencer as a factor in their decision to speak out.
Victims and the media must also take into account Britain’s claimant-friendly libel laws, which place the burden of proof on those making allegations.
In recent years, Brand has largely disappeared from mainstream media, but has built a large following online with videos that mix wellness and conspiracy theories. His YouTube channel, which has more than 6 million subscribers, includes Covid-19 conspiracies, vaccine misinformation and interviews with right-wing broadcasters including Tucker Carlson and Joe Rogan.
He also continues to tour as a comedian and performed in front of hundreds of people in a London venue on the Saturday night when the Channel 4 documentary aired.
Ellie Tomsett, an associate professor of media and communication at Birmingham City University who studies the British standup circuit, said Brand was a product of a live comedy scene that was riddled with misogyny — and still is, despite the progress women and others have made to diversify comic landscape.
“As we’ve seen the rise of popular feminism … we’ve also seen the rise of popular misogyny embodied by people like (social media influencer) Andrew Tate, but evident in all aspects of society and certainly reflected in British comedy. circuit,” said Tomsett.
“More and more things are emerging to try to counter it, but the idea that it happened in the past and doesn’t happen anymore is, frankly, nonsense,” she added.