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A 47-year-old massage therapist who was found guilty of sexually assaulting a female client in August 2020 has avoided jail time with a suspended sentence. Graham Stannard from Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex, faced the Kingstown Crown Court as the jury convicted him of two counts of sexual assault with the judge handing him a 21-month suspended sentence.

According to Daily Mail, Stannard claimed he was encouraged by the woman’s groaning and thought this as consent to the manner of his touching. The 25-year-old victim, a young professional who had booked a massage session with Stannard after reading his positive reviews, said that she did not consent to his actions and the noises she made were involuntarily caused by pain from her sciatica.

In the victim’s impact statement, the woman expressed contempt for Stannard and said, “I hope the man is provided with the professional tools needed to address his behavior and prevent any further assaults.” She told the court that the noises she made were normal in a massage. However, she explained further that Stannard had touched her four times between her legs leading her to believe these were not done by mistake.

The entire experience creeped her out all the more when Stannard started making comments about her body and had even asked her out to dinner and a massage after. The woman added that he even tried to kiss her after giving her a hug.

Stannard’s defense was rejected despite his defense attorney, John Livingston, pushing on the fact that he was a man generally perceived as kind and sensitive and had acted out of character by crossing the line of his profession he had been doing for a number of years. Livingston said this was the only incident and complaint his client had to deal with. Having researched Stannard’s services and read his reviews this only indicated his client was good at his job and has helped a lot of people. Stannard’s lawyer pointed out this was merely an isolated incident and that his client has expressed remorse for his actions.

During the sentencing in court, Judge John Lodge said he did not consider for a moment that Stannard went to work that day and planned to commit the offenses. Since the complaint was filed, Stannard was forced to work as a delivery driver. The judge had ordered him to pay the victim £600 ($796) as compensation to help pay for her counseling sessions.

On top of his sentence, the court also ordered him to carry out a 35-day offenders program along with 30 days of rehabilitation activity requirements. Stannard received a 10-year Sexual Harm Prevention Order which now prevents him from practicing his profession as a massage therapist.

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