29 June 2023

Met Police officer guilty of sexually assaulting woman in sea after stag do

29 June 2023

A Metropolitan Police officer has been found guilty of sexually assaulting a woman in the sea following his stag do.

Sergeant Laurence Knight, 34, is said to have met the woman, a stranger, in Brighton city centre in the early hours of July 17 2021.

Prosecutors said the pair walked to the beach together, stripped down to their underwear and ended up in the sea, where sexual activity took place.

Knight, of Leyton, east London, was charged with rape and sexual assault following the incident, and denied both charges.

The Met suspended him from duty.

He was found not guilty of rape by a jury at Southwark Crown Court following more than seven hours of deliberations. Jurors were not asked whether that verdict was unanimous or a majority decision.

He was convicted of sexual assault by a majority of 10 to two.

He has been bailed ahead of his sentencing hearing at the same court on July 28.

The woman had earlier been out for dinner and drinks and was with a friend when they came across a “jovial” group of men who seemed confused about where to go as they were on a night out and the pubs were closing, the court heard.

In her police interview she told officers Knight wanted to go into the sea and she did not wish to but he persuaded her, telling her “it was his stag night, he was meant to be having fun but it was turning into a rubbish night”.

Jurors heard that the defendant looked as though he was going to cry so the woman said yes and took off her dress because she did not want it to get wet.

Knight went behind the woman in the water and moved her underwear, which is when the alleged sexual activity took place, the court was told.

The woman said she “repeatedly” told Knight to “stop” and reminded him that he was “getting married in two weeks”, jurors heard.

Afterwards, jurors heard, the woman got dressed, told her friend what had happened and called 999.

She claimed a friend of the defendant told her: “Larry wants me to tell you that he’s sorry.”

She said she has experienced a range of feelings since that night, including feeling sick and being unable to sleep or eat properly.

In his evidence to the jury, Knight claimed it was the woman who suggested going into the sea and she who first touched his penis.

He said he then touched her vagina for a few seconds, thinking it was consensual, before she made the comment about his imminent wedding and they returned to the shore. He denied he had any intention to penetrate her.

Asked during cross-examination why he went into the sea with her, he replied: “Quite honestly, I quite enjoyed having the attention. It was a very spur-of-the-moment request from her, it was not discussed before.

“Having had some alcohol and being the stag and being the one that everything was deflected towards, I suppose the phrase is ‘peer pressure’.”

Asked who the peer pressure was coming from, Knight said: “I may have applied it myself.”

The court heard that he tried to send the woman a Facebook message on July 21 that year, saying: “You are not (the woman) that went for a dip in the sea on Friday whilst her guy friend looked after her bag?”

The defendant, who worked for a charity and as a teacher before joining the police, told jurors he had sent the message “to acknowledge I was embarrassed. She was younger, perhaps less mature and she was the one that stepped in and stopped it going any further.”

He said he later deleted the message because he became worried that his fiancee would see it.

He also told jurors his “initial reaction” to his arrest was believing he was being subjected to “an extended prank from the stag do”.

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