• Former Culture Club singer given 15 months
• Treatment was callous and humiliating, says judge
* Sam Jones and Paul Lewis
* guardian.co.uk, Friday 16 January 2009
Boy George Arrives At Court Ahead Of Sentencing
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George O'Dowd, aka Boy George, arrives at Saresbrook Crown Court. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
Cocaine addiction, a bout of unfettered paranoia and the "callous and humiliating" handcuffing of a Norwegian male escort saw Boy George jailed for 15 months today. It was the latest chapter in a saga that has seen the singer metamorphose from an exotic symbol of the 1980s with his group Culture Club into a troubled and enigmatic solo artist.
George O'Dowd, as he was referred to at Snaresbrook crown court, east London, threw a quick glance at the family and fans who had packed court one to see him sentenced for falsely imprisoning and beating Audun Carlsen in April 2007.
The 47-year-old singer showed little emotion as his barrister outlined the mitigating circumstances in the case, speaking of the "world of paranoia" his client had inhabited and the "sordid and salacious" depths to which he had sunk.
O'Dowd certainly contained his feelings more successfully than one of his relatives, who kicked the doors of the courtroom, shouting "Fifteen months!" as Judge David Radford passed sentence.
The musician had been found guilty last month of falsely imprisoning Carlsen, a 29-year-old escort and model whom he had met at the beginning of 2007 through the Gaydar social networking website.
The jury was told that when the two men got together in January that year, O'Dowd had performed oral sex on Carlsen as well as taking photographs and using cocaine with him. According to Heather Norton, prosecuting, O'Dowd, who was "wired" from the drug, flew into a rage, accusing Carlsen of tampering with his computer. His behaviour made Carlsen uncomfortable, and he left.
Carlsen said that he received a number of "bizarre" and accusatory emails from O'Dowd over the next two months, but agreed to see him again after the singer apologised, saying he had got the wrong person. When the two met at O'Dowd's flat in London on 27 April, they again took cocaine and Carlsen participated in a naked photo session.
It was only when he was invited into the bedroom that the escort realised that something was wrong. Carlsen said that the atmosphere changed when O'Dowd returned to the flat after ostensibly popping out to buy milk and cigarettes and ambushed him with the help of another man. The attack seemed to stem from O'Dowd's conviction that Carlsen had attempted to hack into his computer.
The singer told him: "Now you're going to get what you deserve." Carlsen said he was then beaten and handcuffed to a wall fixture while O'Dowd produced a box of leather straps, chains and sex toys.
Carlsen told the jury he only escaped after wrenching the fixture free, but was beaten with a chain by the singer as he fled into the street in Shoreditch, east London. In an apparently accidental allusion to Culture Club's 1982 No 1 hit, Norton asked the jury: "Did he really have to hurt him?"
The judge criticised O'Dowd today for the "wholly gratuitous violence" he had employed. It was sheer good luck, he said, that Carlsen had managed to escape and "in his distraught, barely clothed and still handcuff-wearing condition, seek the assistance of a kindly local newsagent".
He added: "Whilst I accept that Mr Carlsen's physical injuries were not serious or permanent, in my view there can be no doubt that your premeditated, callous and humiliating handcuffing and detention of Mr Carlsen shocked, degraded and traumatised him."
Rejecting O'Dowd's claim that he had merely sought to detain Carlsen to stop him escaping while he asked what had happened to his computer, the judge said: "By its verdict, the jury were sure they could and should reject your defence."
Earlier, O'Dowd's barrister, Adrian Waterman QC, told the judge that O'Dowd's long-term drug use had played a large part in the attack. Waterman reminded the judge of the trial testimony of a witness, who described O'Dowd and Carlsen as sounding "like two drug-crazed idiots". He added: "I submit there is a good deal of truth in that ... both of these persons were severely affected by drugs - indeed habitually affected - by drugs."
Through their drug use, he said, the pair had "descended into lifestyles that were sordid and salacious". However, he insisted that O'Dowd was not just another druggy, musical egomaniac. This defendant is a kind and generous man who is typically mindful of other people's needs and who is the antithesis of the haughty and bullying star," he said.
He also argued that O'Dowd - who, he said, had given up drugs and was a regular visitor to Narcotics Anonymous - had already paid a heavy price for his actions.
"There is something of an irony in that Mr Carlsen will make money out of this while the cost to the defendant is enormous," he said. "He will probably never be permitted to perform in the United States or Japan, where he has an enormous - I believe the word is - fan base. Not only will he lose the money but, more importantly, the chance to do what he loves."
But Waterman did not convince the judge, who said that a plea or admittance of guilt on O'Dowd's part would have provided "true evidence of remorse and saved your victim from the unremitting attack" he had endured in cross-examination.
As well as sentencing him to 15 months imprisonment, the judge ordered O'Dowd to pay £5,000 towards costs. He made no ruling on compensation for Carlsen, saying it was a matter for a civil court.
Speaking after the case, O'Dowd's solicitor, Steven Barker, said: "George is on the road to recovery. I sincerely hope this sentence does not knock him back."
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