Policeman who ‘playfully slapped’ woman’s bottom cleared of sexual assault
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An Essex policeman accused of sexually assaulting a woman in a bar during a night out in Chelmsford has been cleared by a jury.
Stuart Chaplin had been out with a group of other officers on a colleague's leaving do on the night in question and accepted "playfully slapping" the alleged victim on the bottom when she bent down to get a lighter out of her handbag in the smoking area of the Walkabout Bar in Chelmsford.
He said there had been "playful banter" in the group of people he was talking to in the smoking area and he denied there was any sexual overtone to what he did.
He denied squeezing the woman's bottom later the same evening in the bar and said: "It's not something I would do."
Chaplin, of Witham, denied two offences of sexually assaulting the woman in May last year and was cleared of both offences.
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Chaplin also denied an offence of exposure but the jury was directed to return a not guilty verdict on that charge by the trial judge.
Giving evidence the woman said she had bent down to get something out of her handbag and had felt an impact to her bottom which she initially thought was a kick.
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Later the same evening she claimed that Chaplin had cupped her bottom with his hand and squeezed it.
Cross-examined by Richard Conley for Chaplin she denied that any contact by Chaplin with her was "innocent and friendly" and that she had either embellished or made up what happened.
Gareth Hughes, prosecuting, told the court that Chaplin was captured on CCTV smacking the woman's bottom as she bent down to get something out of her handbag.
When she turned round she allegedly saw Chaplin "laughing and smirking".
Later in the evening she was getting ready to leave the bar when Chaplin allegedly grabbed her bottom and squeezed hard.
During his evidence Chaplin said that when he was told about the allegations he had started crying and had felt scared.
"I was suspended from duty and it broke my heart," he said.
Character witness Inspector Emma Brookes described Chaplin as a "caring, sincere young man who was 100 percent professional."