Woman sues Netflix over Baby Reindeer character

The lawsuit, filed in a California court, seeks over $170m (£132m) in damages f

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A Scottish woman who allegedly inspired the stalker character Martha in hit Netflix drama Baby Reindeer is suing the streamer for defamation, negligence and privacy violations.

Fiona Harvey - who has identified herself as the woman on whom Martha is based - argued in a lawsuit that Netflix told "brutal lies" about her to over 50 million viewers around the world.

The lawsuit, filed in a California court, seeks over $170m (£132m) in damages for Ms Harvey. She claims the Baby Reindeer series falsely depicted her as a convicted criminal who spent time in prison for stalking.

Netflix has vowed to "defend this matter vigorously".

It said it would stand by the right of the show's creator and star, Scottish comedian Richard Gadd, to "tell his story".

Mr Gadd wrote the series about his alleged experience of being stalked by a woman he met at the pub where he worked. He has previously appealed to fans to refrain from trying to identify Martha, a character who he first described in a stand-up comedy routine.

He is not named as a defendant in Ms Harvey's lawsuit.

The first episode of the hit mini-series claims that "this is a true story". The show's end credits say that the programme "is based on real events: however certain characters, names, incidents, locations, and dialogue have been fictionalized for dramatic purposes”.

Neither Mr Gadd nor Ms Harvey's real names are used in the series, and neither Netflix or Mr Gadd have confirmed that Martha was based on Ms Harvey.

While giving evidence before the Culture Media and Sport Committee in Parliament last month, Netflix executive Benjamin King said the show was "obviously a true story of the horrific abuse that the writer and protagonist Richard Gadd suffered at the hands of a convicted stalker".

Mr King was subsequently challenged by an MP - the SNP's John Nicolson - to substantiate his statements. Mr Nicolson said "journalists can find no evidence to back up the Netflix claim" of a conviction for the woman identified as the inspiration for Martha.

For her part, Ms Harvey alleges in her case that Netflix "did literally nothing" to confirm that Mr Gadd's story was true.

Ms Harvey also denies that she sexually assaulted the show's creator, according to the court documents, which allege that Netflix “told these lies, and never stopped, because it was a better story than the truth, and better stories made money”.

In one scene in the series, the Martha character is depicted as sexually assaulting the show's protagonist along a canal one night.

Ms Harvey told BBC News on Thursday that she was certain her team would win the case. "Otherwise, we wouldn't be doing it," she said.

Richard Roth, a New York-based lawyer representing Ms Harvey, told the BBC there was "no doubt" that Ms Harvey's identity was used for Baby Reindeer's plot.

He said he had "incontrovertible documentary evidence” proving that his client had never been convicted of a crime.

The lawsuit includes a photo of a background check and a certificate that claims that Ms Harvey has no criminal convictions on her record.

Ms Harvey, who lives in the UK, says that since the series was released in April she has received numerous death threats.

The experience has left her "fearful of leaving her home or checking the news", the lawsuits says, adding that she has "become extremely secluded and isolated, in fear of the public, going days without leaving her home".

In a nearly hour-long interview with Piers Morgan last month, Ms Harvey confirmed that she had known Mr Gadd during his time working at a pub in London.

But she denied that she had acted like the character Martha, who sends Mr Gadd's character 41,000 emails and leaves 350 hours of voicemail messages in the show.

"None of that's true. I don't think I sent him anything," she said.

"No, I think there may have been a couple of emails exchanged, but that was it. Just jokey banter emails."

The lawsuit does say, however, that some real comments she made to Mr Gadd - such as a tweet she sent him in 2014 - are used in the show's dialogue.