Lord Holmes has been cleared of sexual assault
A beauty therapist accused him of groping her near the end of treatment at a five-star hotel
The former Tory peer declined to comment immediately after the verdict
A blind former Conservative peer has been cleared of sexually assaulting a masseuse he was accused of groping.
Lord Chris Holmes of Richmond was alleged to have grabbed the beauty therapist’s bottom and asked if she did “extras” and “can I touch your boobs?” near the end of a treatment at a five-star London hotel on 7 March last year.
The 48-year-old, a nine-time Paralympic swimming gold medallist, asked to see what she looked like by touching her, which the woman allowed, Southwark Crown Court was told.
However, she claimed he then groped her, and she told him she was a professional and backed away.
On Thursday, a jury cleared Holmes, who is now not affiliated to a party in the House of Lords, of sexual assault, which he denied.
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Holmes rubbed his eyes and breathed sighs of relief after the verdict, before being helped from the dock by his wife.
Speaking after the case, he told the PA news agency: “I do not have words to express how fortunate I am to have the family and friends that I do, in particular my lovely wife.
“They have all supported me throughout this nightmare.”
The therapist, who cannot be named for legal reasons, worried she could not tell the police about her accusation because she finished the massage, the trial heard.
Jurors were told she was worried he would hurt himself or his guide dog if she left the small room, and that he “shushed me and apologised so many times”.
She told her boyfriend the incident was “my fault” because she stayed, but he said she should complain to the police or the House of Lords because authorities “take this seriously now after #MeToo”, the court heard.
Jurors were told that Lord Holmes’s defence suggested the woman made a malicious claim to gain financially.
Lord Holmes denied the assault and said he touched people to get “the sense” of someone, especially if he felt vulnerable.
“I understand how difficult it is to imagine what it must be like to have no sight whatsoever, because up until I was 14 I couldn’t have any indication of what that would be like, but that really is my world,” he told jurors.
“My world would stop here (in front of me) if I couldn’t contact that external world that you can get in the blink of an eye, and I try and use everything I’ve still got to try and construct that world.
“So, through sound, smells, and, yes, touch, but touch as a means of being able to construct that world, touching objects, and, yes, touching people every single day.”
His defence, meanwhile, suggested the woman was exaggerating the incident and “rewriting history to fit your account of what happened”.
Lord Holmes retired from Paralympic swimming in 2002 and was appointed to the House of Lords in 2013.
He said after the case: “It is clear that there is still misunderstanding about how blind people need to construct some idea of the external world.
“I do not want to say anything unkind about the specific allegation once made about me in this case. But after 18 months of waiting for my trial, the jury understood.”
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