Why did Boy George go to prison? His arrest and crime explained

The singer is currently appearing on this year's I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!

Boy George on stage singing into a microphone
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Why did Boy George go to prison is a question many TV fans are asking as the singer takes part in this years I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!

The I'm a Celebrity 2022 line-up has been announced, and while there's the usual reality TV and soap stars, there are a few surprising contestants too - perhaps most notably MP and ex-Health Secretary Matt Hancock. But as the show returns to Australia for a season full of bushtucker trials, another name causing shock among the public is pop icon Boy George.

Many remember the singer's stint in prison over 20 years ago, and ITV have faced backlash for casting him in the show due to his previous conviction. So, as the 80s pop star prepares to head into the jungle, people are asking why did Boy George go to prison?

Why did Boy George go to prison?

Boy George was convicted of the assault and false imprisonment of Norwegian model and male escort Audun Carlsen, after Carlsen visited the singer's flat on the pair's second meeting.

George, whose real name is George O'Dowd, was convicted of imprisoning Carlsen by handcuffing him to a wall and beating him with a metal chain. 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 2016, Audun Carlsen said the singer had "ruined his life". 

Boy George photographed outside court with a policeman behind him

(Image credit: Getty Images)

George denied the charge and claimed that Auden had hacked his laptop and that he had handcuffed him while he tried to find the stolen property. 

At the time of his conviction, Judge David Radford said: "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.

"He was deprived of his liberty and human dignity without warning or proper explanation to him of its purpose, length or purported justification." 

Recently, Carlsen has spoken to the Mirror about George's appearance on this year's I'm a Celeb, saying: "I still see the monster that he is every time I see him. He hasn’t changed. I’m not going to watch I’m A Celeb, and I love that show. I might watch him doing a Bushtucker Trial. But I won’t vote for him, I won’t participate. Being in there is too easy for him. When it gets scary he can say 'I’m A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here'. I couldn’t do that when I was chained to his wall."

He previously criticised the BBC for including the singer as a judge on The Voice  back in 2016, also telling the Mirror: "If a male celebrity beat up a woman with a chain, handcuffed her to a wall and threatened her… there would be a public outcry if he was given a high-profile job at the BBC. But because I am a gay man they think it's okay. It's outrageous."

A spokesperson for Boy George told the publication, "George went to jail for four months willingly after openly confessing to false imprisonment during a psychotic break 15 years ago whilst in the midst of a well-documented drug problem.

"Not only has he been a pillar of society ever since, but he also remains sober to this day… Everyone is entitled to a second chance and George has certainly earned it."

When was Boy George sent to prison?

Boy George was sentenced to jail in January 2009, after he was convicted of false imprisonment in 2008. The assault had occurred in April 2007.

The singer has since said he was high on cocaine and having a psychotic episode at the time of the incident, but sought treatment afterwards and has been drug-free since. George pleaded not guilty to false imprisonment and has always denied a court claim that he beat Audun with a chain.

Boy George posing for a photo in his I'm A Celeb outfit

(Image credit: ITV)

Following his sentencing, his solicitor told the BBC: "George is on the road to recovery, I sincerely hope this sentence does not knock him back."

During an appearance on Piers Morgan's Life Stories in 2017, George spoke about his sentencing, saying, "I sent myself to prison. I told police why I did what I did. I was having a psychotic episode. I was a drug addict so I can’t say my reasons for doing it were founded in any way. But I told the truth. I have always denied beating the guy."

The incident was not the first time the singer has been arrested. In 2005, Boy George  was arrested in New York on suspicion of possessing cocaine, though the charge was dropped. A year later, he was given community service after pleading guilty to falsely reporting a burglary at his New York apartment.

How long was Boy George in prison for?

Boy George was sentenced to 15 months in jail, but was granted early release after four months for good behaviour. He wore an ankle monitor for the remainder of his sentence. 

While on licensed release from prison, Boy George requested to appear on the final series of Celebrity Big Brother. However, a judge refused the him permission to appear on the show, saying: "An offender serving the non-custodial part of a sentence of imprisonment should not be allowed to take part in a high profile, controversial television production, promoting his status as a celebrity and with considerable financial gain."

What has Boy George said about his time in prison?

In an interview for Reader's Digest, Boy George said his time in prison was "life changing", adding "I always maintained that jail would finish me off, but it didn’t. You somehow find the strength."

He also said: "I feel I came out of that situation with some wisdom and knowledge. I really don’t view that period in my life as negative… but I wouldn’t want to go back."

In a recent episode of I'm a Celeb, Boy George spoke about his arrest and time in prison to fellow contestant Scarlette Douglas. When Douglas asked about the incident, George said: "Handcuffs is true but the radiator bit wasn’t true, but thanks for bringing it up… Sometimes these things, they go into the ether, and people keep saying them and they become folklore."

He went on to say of his time in prison, "It was very boring. The clothes was quite similar to this. When I was there, I was like: ‘Right this isn’t my life. This isn’t what I want, I’m never coming back.’ I accepted it and I just thought I’ll take what happens."

George later said to the cameras: "Scarlette blatantly talked about my court case. I thought it was inappropriate what she did, actually. And I thought I handled it really well as it’s a big sore point for me when people say things like that."

Boy George has been open in the past about his struggles with addiction, and said he sees his mistakes as "life lessons" and that getting sober has transformed his life.

In years since, the singer has appeared as a celebrity coach on both The Voice UK, and The Voice Australia, but his upcoming appearance on I'm a Celebrity has caused some controversy.

One twitter user responded to the announcement saying "BOY GEORGE TIED UP SOMEONE TO A RADIATOR FOR 2 DAYS AND BEAT THEM WITH A METAL CHAIN. Please stop giving him any screen time. That man is disgusting and doesn’t deserve a career in television." Another said: "It blows my mind that NO ONE who does major TV bookings seems to give a s*** that Boy George is a convicted sex offender."

Ahead of the launch, Boy George said: "I watch I’m A Celebrity every year and I had to think long and hard about this. But I feel like I am in a very fertile creative moment in my life. I am in a moment of rediscovery of who I am as a person, artist and older man and I feel like I do make a lot of effort to be in pop culture.

"I am bored of being iconic in the corner and if you want to compete in the world then being part of telly is part of that. This is the biggest show on TV and that is why I am doing it. And now I have made the decision, I don’t want to focus too much on what the experience might be like, but my intention is it is going to be amazing"

Boy George net worth

According to Celebrity Net Worth, Boy George is worth $50 million - that's around £43 million. The singer fronted pop band Culture Club in the 80s, which had successes with tracks including 'Karma Chameleon'.

It's been reported that Boy George has been offered around £500,000 to appear on this year's I'm a Celebrity, making him the highest-paid campmate ever alongside Caitlyn Jenner, who received a similar sum to appear on the 2017 series.

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Ellie Hutchings
Features Editor

Ellie is Goodto’s Feature Editor, having joined the team as a Junior Features Writer in 2022, and covers everything from wellbeing for parents to the latest TV and entertainment. Ellie has covered all the latest trends in the parenting world, including baby names, parenting hacks, and foodie tips for busy families. She has a distinction in MA Magazine Journalism from Nottingham Trent University and a first-class degree in Journalism from Cardiff University, and previously Ellie has worked with BBC Good Food, The Big Issue, and the Nottingham Post, as well as freelancing as an arts and entertainment writer alongside her studies.