Former MP Charlie Elphicke has lost a Court of Appeal challenge against his two-year jail term for assaulting two women nearly a decade apart.
The disgraced 49-year-old was jailed for two years in September last year after being found guilty of three counts of sexual assault following a month-long trial at Southwark Crown Court.
Lawyers representing the former Conservative MP for Dover argued at a hearing in London on Wednesday that his sentence was too long and should have been suspended.
But, rejecting his appeal bid, Lady Justice Carr said the Crown Court judge was entitled to impose the sentence she did.
The judge, sitting with Mr Justice William Davis and Mr Justice Calver, said: “The appellant was someone prepared to exploit his position of power and trust in order to pursue his sexual desires, as opposed to being sexually clumsy and unable to read social signals, as suggested (on his behalf).”
She said he had used his “success and respectability as cover”, adding: “He used his power to create conditions in which he believed that he could act on his sexual desires without fear of consequence.”
The judge also said Elphicke “took advantage of his apparently respectable position and the reasonable expectation of (his victims) that he would not seek to make unwanted sexual advances to them”.
She said there was “no basis” to interfere with the Crown Court judge’s conclusion that a suspended sentence was not an option.
Elphicke’s barrister, Rachna Gokani, earlier told the court that Elphicke has not seen his son in person for six months after he had to be placed in isolation twice – once for eight weeks because he had to move to another prison following an error by the Crown Court and a second time for two weeks after contracting Covid-19.
She said he had also suffered “the loss of his career, his marriage and his good character” and the court should consider the impact on his son of a custodial sentence.
Sentencing him last year, Mrs Justice Whipple told Elphicke: “You’re a sexual predator who used your success and respectability as a cover.
“You required both women to come to court and give evidence about the assaults you had made on them.
“That was not easy for them and they displayed great courage.
“They told the truth, you told a pack of lies – not just to the jury but, as became clear, to your wife, the whips, and the police as well.”
She added that “the gross breach of your position of power” meant a sentence of immediate custody was required.
Elphicke was also ordered to pay £35,000 in costs, although his lawyer said he had “a fair bit of debt” and that his estranged wife, Natalie Elphicke, loaned him £100,000 to pay for legal bills.
It emerged that his 20-year-old daughter, Charlotte, had become estranged from him, while his wife – his successor as MP for Dover – ended their 25-year marriage upon his conviction.
In a statement, Elphicke said he would appeal against the conviction, adding that he was “innocent of any criminal wrongdoing”.
However, it was not made clear during Wednesday’s hearing whether he still intends to pursue an appeal against his conviction.
Jurors at his trial heard that the first offence took place when Elphicke invited a woman in her early 30s to share a drink with him while his children were asleep and his wife was away with work in the summer of 2007 – the first time she had been absent since the birth of their son.
The woman said Elphicke asked her about bondage and sex, then kissed her and groped her breast before chasing her around his home, chanting: “I’m a naughty Tory.”
The second complainant said Elphicke also tried to kiss her and then groped her when they met for a drink in Westminster in April 2016.
He then told her: “I’m so naughty sometimes.”
She said she spurned Elphicke’s sexual advances, telling jurors she was physically repulsed by him and that he told her he had “not been happy for years” in his marriage.
She said he assaulted her again the following month when he ran his hand up her thigh towards her groin.
Elphicke said he kissed the first victim because he initially felt it was something they both wanted.
He told jurors he was “besotted” with the second complainant, but denied assaulting either of them.
The court heard that Elphicke initially denied any knowledge of the allegations against the parliamentary worker when he was summoned before Tory Party whips in January 2017.
He became a Government whip under David Cameron’s premiership in 2015, but returned to the back benches when Theresa May came to power the following year.
Elphicke had the party whip suspended in 2017 when allegations of sexual assault first emerged, but it was controversially reinstated a year later for a crucial confidence vote in then-prime minister Mrs May.
The whip was withdrawn again the following summer when the Crown Prosecution Service announced its decision to charge Elphicke.