International lawyer found guilty of groping woman on bus through Cumbria (From The Westmorland Gazette)
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International lawyer found guilty of groping woman on bus through Cumbria
1:31pm Wednesday 8th August 2012 in News
A HIGH-flying international lawyer has been found guilty of groping the young woman sitting next to him on a long-distance bus through Cumbria.
Hugh Robert Wotherspoon, 54, was arrested at Tebay Services on the M6 last August after the German-born woman told the driver he had been repeatedly been fondling her thigh on the journey south from Edinburgh.
At Carlisle Crown Court this week Wotherspoon – a qualified solicitor who specialises in patent applications from his firm’s offices in London, Munich and New York – admitted that he had “tried it on” with the woman.
But he insisted he was not guilty of any criminal offence because he believed she was enjoying it as much as he was.
The woman said Wotherspoon’s behaviour had left her “shocked and shaken” and the only reason she did not hit him or scream for help was that she was afraid of what his reaction might have been.
The jury took just under an hour to find him guilty of assaulting the woman by touching her in a sexual manner against her will.
Wotherspoon, of Dalmeny Road, Carshalton, Surrey, was remanded on bail for background reports and will be sentenced on August 31.
Judge Peter Hughes QC described it as "a very worrying case" but said Wotherspoon would not be going to prison.
Wotherspoon told the court that after sitting for so long next to the woman in the bus's cramped seats it seemed natural to stroke her thigh.
“At no time during the entire two and a half hours that we were sitting in extremely intimate contact did she move away,” he said.
Wotherspoon said he had not spoken to the woman during the journey which ended when he was arrested at Tebay Services on the M6, but he had communicated with her through “touch and body language”.
He told the police: “It felt very comfortable to me. I thought it was comfortable to her too.”
He admitted that about 90 minutes into the late night Edinburgh-London National Express coach journey he put his hand on the woman's knee.
“It seemed suitable and comfortable and proper at the time and I thought she would feel the same . . . I put my hand on her knee. I thought she might like it. It just seemed right. It didn't seem wrong or terrible in that situation.”
Wotherspoon said the woman removed his hand - “a gentle, diffident brush-off”, as he described it – but half an hour later he pushed his hand down between her thigh and his and started tapping her leg with his fingers.
“I did not have any reason to believe that another touch would be unwelcome,” he said. “I tried it on.”
The woman, who comes from London but cannot be named, said: “I didn't expect there to be a hand there all of a sudden. I knew I had to do something but I didn't know what to do.”
She said that by the time the coach made it scheduled stop at Tebay Wotherspoon had spent half an hour with his hand between her legs.
“I was thinking of hitting him or screaming, but you never know how people will react,” she said.
Wotherspoon, of Dalmeny Road, Carshalton, Surrey, has pleaded not guilty to sexual assault.