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Our Top Stories from 2020 Comic Sil Fox says 'telling my family I was on a sex-assault charge was hardest part'

First published May 31, 2020. In an exclusive interview, funnyman Sil recalled the moment he had to break the news to his family that he was facing a charge of groping a woman in a Dublin bar.


Sil Fox had to receive medical treatment and counselling for months after being accused of a sexual assault

Sil Fox had to receive medical treatment and counselling for months after being accused of a sexual assault

Sil Fox had to receive medical treatment and counselling for months after being accused of a sexual assault

LEGENDARY Irish comic Sil Fox had to receive medical treatment and counselling for months after being accused of a sexual assault.

The 87-year-old entertainer, who was finally cleared of the charge in May, 2020, became “depressed and reclusive”, his son Cyril told the Sunday World.

In an exclusive interview, funnyman Sil also recalled the terrible moment he had to break the news to his family that he was facing a charge of groping a woman in a Dublin bar on December 17, 2018.

“That was the hardest thing to have to do, but they were so supportive,” Sil told me.

The showbiz veteran had vehemently denied sexually assaulting the woman after he agreed to have a photo taken with her.

On May 27, the charge was finally thrown out at Dublin District Court by Judge Paula Murphy because of inconsistencies between the complainant’s evidence and CCTV footage shown during the non-jury trial.

The woman had alleged that Sil Fox had put his left hand on her groin and tickled her private area for 30 seconds as the photo was taken after she beckoned him over to her table in a Dublin bar for a selfie photo.

However, CCTV footage showed his hand on the table the entire time.

Recalling the moment his father told him of the assault charge, Cyril Fox said: “We were on holiday in Marrakesh with family and friends around February or March of last year, and I could see that Dad was down in the dumps, which was not like him. He was normally the life and soul of the party, but he wasn’t himself.

“He was being quiet and where he should have been as happy as Larry there was a cloud over him. I didn’t realise then that he was dealing with a hidden secret on his own.

“Then, on one of the days as we were sitting in the sun, Dad finally said, ‘Can I tell you something that’s after happening to me. I’m after being charged with a sexual assault that I didn’t do and I have no way out of it till it goes to court.’

“I was shocked. It really threw me, how do you process something like that? I didn’t know how to handle it at first. Dad was 85 at the time. We’re not touchy-feely people, so I didn’t wrap my arms around him or anything like that. All I could do was reassure him that it would be ok. But it was very upsetting knowing my 85-year-old father was going to have to go through it till the bitter end, and the toll that might take on his health.”

Remembering the moment, Sil said: “Cyril took over from that point on, which was fantastic. I couldn’t have gone through it without his support. He organised everything…well, I’m 87 and he’s only 60.”

Sil then told his 84-year-old wife, Laura, who was immediately supportive: “Laura said, ‘You didn’t do anything, so don’t be worrying about it.’ She stood by me all the way. There’s just the two of us in the house. We also have a son and daughter, Alan and Laura, in Australia. All my family were great to me, including my nieces and nephews.”

However, Cyril said he noticed the changes in his father during the 18 months that the case hung over him. “Dad went from happy-go-lucky and jovial to being depressed. He didn’t want to go out in public where he would be seen by people.

“Comedy is Dad’s life, but for those months he didn’t want to know anything about it. Everything that was comedy-related was tainted with the case hanging over him. He wouldn’t go into the office in the house for months on end because he couldn’t face it.

“He was put on medication to help him cope with the stress and he also received counselling. There was a very good team in Tallaght Hospital taking care of his health. He attended there every second week.”

Looking back on the night that led to his sexual assault charge, Sil recalled: “I was invited down to Harrys on the Green where there was a big band night. I like the big bands and I went to see the jazz singer Flo McSweeney.

“During the night I was asked to get into a photo by a woman who had kept pulling me over. Eventually I went over, the selfie was taken, I said ‘goodnight, enjoy the night,’ and I walked back to my own table. And that was it.

“It was a couple of months later that I got a visit from a detective from Pearse Street Garda Station who told me there was an allegation made against me, which I couldn’t believe.

“I was so surprised that this ever went to court. I blame the DPP because they saw everything before it went ahead. I believe that the only reason it went ahead was the fact that I was known as a celebrity.

“I have gone through hell. It went on for so long and I had numerous court appearances. Every time I appeared in court my photo was in the media and there were headlines about my sexual assault charge. All I kept thinking was, people believe that I’ve done this.

“I couldn’t sleep properly at night. That charge was the last thing I would think about before I went to sleep and the first thing that would come into my mind when I’d wake up.

“I lost everything. All my work was cancelled. I think it’s very unfair that my name was made public and tarnished. The law should be changed in cases like this so people are only named if found guilty, and Cyril and myself are going to campaign for that to happen.”

Sil's rise to fame

SIL Fox came from a poor background in Dublin’s Oliver Bond flats and says he was lucky to avoid being sent to one of Ireland’s notorious industrial schools as a child.

“My father died when I was just four-years-old and the youngest in the family, leaving my mother a widow with five children,” Sil recalls.

“There was then pressure on my mother to put us into an industrial school because she was only a young woman on her own.

“My mother resisted and said, ‘No, I’m holding on to them.’ She worked in the Four Courts as a cleaner and reared us. She was a great woman.”

Sil left school at 16 to work in the tailoring trade in a factory, a job he held until he was in his 30s.

“I was the manager in a hat factory in Malahide, but it closed. Pope John XXlll decreed that women didn’t have to wear hats going to Mass, so that was the end of the factory because they were the type of hats we made.

“I always joke that Pope John XXlll made Sil Fox a comedian. I started off doing the pubs where you put your name down if you wanted to get up and do a comedy routine, and it took off from there.

“Starting off in The Red Lion pub in Dublin, I went on to perform around the world, including in Hollywood. I opened shows for Joe Dolan and Dickie Rock and for the last 10 years I’ve been on Joe Duffy’s Funny Friday show.

“Everything was going so well, then a night out led to a nightmare.”

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Online Editors