image captionCrispin Odey arrived at court with his wife Nichola Pease
Hedge fund manager Crispin Odey, who was accused of groping a young investment banker “like an octopus”, has been cleared.
Mr Odey, now 62, was alleged to have assaulted the woman, who was in her 20s at the time, at his home in Chelsea, west London, in July 1998.
He had pleaded not guilty one count of indecent assault.
District judge Nicholas Rimmer acquitted him due to “inconsistencies” with the complainant’s account.
The complainant was working with Odey Asset Management, the company Mr Odey founded in 1991, when he invited her to his home in Swan Walk and, the court heard, she hoped going there “would further her career”.
The court was told Mr Odey ordered a Chinese takeaway, then showered and changed out of his suit into a robe before assaulting the investment banker in his kitchen.
image captionVocal Brexit backer Crispin Odey is worth about £800m, according to the Sunday Times Rich List
Giving evidence at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, Mr Odey said: “I am embarrassed to say if she had gone along with it, I would have gone further.”
Asked if he would have “taken the opportunity” to sleep with her that night, had it arisen, Mr Odey replied: “I might have … I don’t know, it didn’t happen.”
Defence counsel Crispin Aylett QC cited “contradictions” in the complainant’s evidence and said she had a “natural tendency to embellish and exaggerate”, which he said made her “look like an unreliable historian”.
The court heard the complainant went to the police in 2017 in the wake of the #MeToo movement, which sprang out of widespread disclosures about disgraced film mogul Harvey Weinstein’s sexual misconduct.
Mr Aylett, summing up, said she “waited and waited until events on the other side of the world led her to believe she might become a standard bearer for a regiment of other complaints against Crispin Odey”.
The judge, returning his verdict, said: “I find troubling her (the complainant’s) obvious preoccupation with the press, with your money, and her apparent desire for publicity of her complaint.
“Where there is any doubt in a criminal case, given the high standard of proof, it must be resolved in favour of the defendant.
“I cannot dismiss the possibility that no more than your unwanted verbal advance or proposition to the complainant occurred on the evening in question.”
The judge said he found it “unsurprising” that the Crown Prosecution Service initially decided not to charge Mr Odey, something subsequently reviewed and overturned by a chief crown prosecutor, despite no “stronger evidence” emerging.
Addressing Mr Odey directly, the judge said: “I find you not guilty of this offence.
“I acquit you, and you will leave this courthouse with your good character intact.”
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