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” near the end of a treatment at a five-star London hotel.
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 said he then groped her, and she told him she was a professional and backed away.
On Thursday, a jury cleared Holmes of sexual assault, which he denied.
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 court 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 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”.