Left Bank Pictures, the Sony-backed U.K. producers of Netflix smash hit “The Crown,” has been accused of mishandling a sexual harassment complaint, according to an expose published in The Guardian on Monday.
Freelancers Holly Bourdillon and Laura Johnston were working on the post-production of “White Lines,” another Netflix show produced by Left Bank, in December 2019 in London. Chris Croucher, then an executive producer at Left Bank, sexually assaulted Bourdillon, and also physically assaulted Johnston, according to The Guardian.
Croucher was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2020. He pleaded guilty to sexual and common assault in January 2021 and was sentenced to three months’ curfew and a five-year community order.
However, Bourdillon and Johnston allege in The Guardian that a meeting with Left Bank CEO Andy Harries and COO Grace Wilson, along with two other unnamed members of staff in January 2020, caused them distress. “Andy starts the meeting by saying that Chris was an amazing producer,” Bourdillon told The Guardian. The two women were allegedly told that the company had a “duty of care” towards Croucher.
Bourdillon and Johnston also allege that Wilson told them that “if there was any good to come of the incident, it was that both women had learned a lesson about drinking with colleagues after work,” according to The Guardian.
“Left Bank and Sony strongly deny any such comments were made,” The Guardian says.
The Guardian story goes on to detail grievances of Bourdillon and Johnston about the manner in which Left Bank handled the matter, including allegedly discouraging them to go to the police.
“We are saddened to hear that Laura and Holly did not feel sufficiently supported by the company throughout this process, as the wellbeing of all of our staff is of paramount importance to us,” said a spokesperson for Left Bank Pictures (speaking also on behalf of Sony) in a statement emailed to Variety. “The welfare of both women was a priority for all from the outset, throughout the investigation and beyond.
“However, these claims about the handling of this matter are inaccurate and completely mischaracterize the seriousness with which Left Bank Pictures took the complaint from the outset, as well as the great lengths the company went to in supporting the victims throughout.
“Upon receiving the complaint, Mr. Croucher was removed from the workplace and a full investigation began immediately. Following the findings of the investigation and further interviews with staff, he was summarily dismissed. At every point we co-operated fully with the police and followed up with them numerous times throughout their investigation, and in compliance with HR protocols and employment law as they relate to complaints of this nature,” the statement adds. “At no time were the women who raised the concerns discouraged from reporting the events to the police, nor were they asked or encouraged to lie. Left Bank and Sony Pictures are committed to providing a workplace that is free from any form of sexual harassment, as evidenced by our actions taken in this instance.”
Netflix declined to provide a statement when approached by Variety.
The report on Monday is the latest case of women working in the British film and TV industry coming forward to detail their experiences with sexual harassment and abuse in the workplace. In April, The Guardian broke a story revealing multiple sexual misconduct allegations against “Bulletproof” star Noel Clarke, which he has vehemently denied.
The incident prompted an open letter by members of the U.K. media industry decrying the existing work culture, which now has more than 2,000 signatures.
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