08/10/2020 13:19 BST | Updated 08/10/2020 13:25 BST

Tory Peer Lord Holmes Cleared Of Sexually Assaulting Massage Therapist

The nine-time Paralympic swimming gold medallist, who is blind, was accused of grabbing the woman and asking if she did "extras".

Lord Holmes of Richmond (left) leaving Westminster Magistrates' Court, London where he appeared on charges of sexual assault

A Paralympic gold medallist and Tory peer has been found not guilty of sexually assaulting a beauty therapist during a massage.

Nine-time Paralympic swimming gold medallist Lord Holmes of Richmond had been accused of grabbing the complainant’s bottom and asking her if she did “extras”.

The former athlete, who retired from sport in 2002 and went into a career in law, denied one count of sexual assault at the trail at Southwark Crown Court.

The jury on Thursday returned their not guilty verdict on one count of sexual assault after just over five hours of deliberations.

Holmes, of Richmond, Surrey, was accompanied by his guide dog in the dock and rubbed his eyes and repeatedly breathed sighs of relief after the verdict was given.

He was helped from the dock by his wife.

The 48-year-old, who went completely blind almost overnight at the age of 14, was accused of groping the woman after asking to touch her to see what she looked like – something she had consented to.

He had admitted asking to touch the therapist, but denied it was due to any kind of sexual motivation.

Holmes had told the court: “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.

“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.”

He continued: “(It’s) to get a sense of that other person – not to make a facsimile or an oil painting of them, just having a sense of that other person who was in a room that I didn’t really know, with a person I don’t know, lying on my back and feeling completely vulnerable.”