A massage therapist has avoided jail with a suspended sentence after acting out ‘pornographic fantasy’ when molesting a young professional woman two decades his junior.
Masseur Graham Stannard, 47, of Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex, repeatedly touched the 25-year-old between her legs, claiming he was encouraged by her moans of pleasure.
But the woman insists she did not consent and her involuntary groans were a response to him massaging her painful condition – caused by an irritated nerve.
The jury rejected Stannard’s claim he honestly believed the woman was consenting and unanimously found him guilty of two counts of sexual assault.
Uniquely, Kingston-upon-Thames Crown Court Judge John Lodge ordered Stannard to pay £600 towards the victim’s twenty-three private psychotherapy sessions she needed after he molested her.
He received twenty-one months imprisonment, suspended for two years and must complete 35 days of the Horizon sex offenders programme and up to 30 days of a rehabilitation activity requirement.
Graham Stannard, 47, (pictured) has avoided jail with a suspended sentence after acting out ‘pornographic fantasy’ when molesting a young professional woman two decades his junior
‘It is hard to imagine a grosser abuse of trust than a woman on a massage table, in a position vulnerability, expecting to receive therapy and instead becoming a victim of abuse,’ the judge told first-time offender Stannard.
‘The generosity of spirit of your victim, who should have nothing but contempt for you, is reflected in her victim impact statement where she says: ‘I hope the man is provided with the professional tools needed to address his behaviour and prevent any further assaults.’
‘It is impossible in a case of sexual violation to seek to place a monetary value on it. It diminishes the gross violation of these offences, but the victim has sought to have therapy and that has cost her.’
‘That was the bizarre thing about the trial,’ added Judge Lodge. ‘That he had a reasonable belief there was consent, which the jury understandably rejected.’
The trial heard Stannard, the boss of Healing Zen Massage and a practitioner of Zen-Su deep release massage had a therapy room in a beauty salon in Bedford Hill, Balham, south London.
After reading his positive online reviews the woman, who has a high-pressure desk job, booked an appointment to receive a massage on August 2, 2020.
The jury viewed her recorded police statement in which she said: ‘When I removed my mask he said: “Wow. You’ve got such a lovely smile,” and I thought that was the first thing out of place.’
She stripped-down to her knickers and lied face-down on the massage table as Stannard began. ‘He said: “It’s really nice you are making those noises. I’d like to hear more of them”.
‘They were just the normal noises of a massage,’ she told the trial, explaining Stannard put his hand between her legs after massaging her hip area.
‘He just went for it and touched me four times or something, quite hard under my knickers so it was not a mistake.
‘I went completely quiet. I always thought in a situation like that I’d be shouty and tell him to: ‘”F*** off,” but I just completely froze.
‘I started moving my bum and hips away, but it didn’t deter him and I thought: “What the f***?”
‘I thought: “F***, he’s going to do it again,” and this time he really went for it.
‘He asked me to turn over. I was topless and he looked stoked, so happy with eyes wide open, buzzing.
‘He said: “You’ve got such an amazing body,” he was ecstatic and said he was going to do my front and I thought he would do something worse.’
She said Stannard hastily concluded the massage then tried to discuss it with her. ‘He was close to my face and from then it was just creepy.
‘He returned after ten minutes and he was like: “God, that was amazing. Maybe I can take you out to dinner and do a massage after that.”
‘He gave me a hug and was going to try and kiss me and I left and called my boyfriend and burst into tears and told him what happened.
He received twenty-one months imprisonment, suspended for two years and must complete 35 days of the Horizon sex offenders programme and up to 30 days of a rehabilitation activity requirement
‘I was sitting on the kerb, breathing heavily, it was horrible. I walked around for twenty minutes dry heaving and had a bath when I got home because I had oil all over me and wanted to get it off.’
She then received a text from Stannard, which read: ‘Lovely to see you. Let me know about home massage.’
Today, prosecutor Warwick Tatford told the court: ‘This defendant was working as a provider of massage services within a hairdresser’s and a booking was made online by the woman.
‘The defendant appeared to have a sexual attraction towards her and commented on her smile, which she thought was strange and while on her front her touched her above her knickers and then twice skin on skin.’
During the trial the prosecutor told the jury: ‘No doubt his regular clients think good of him, but he gave into sexual temptation that day when he gave a massage to this twenty-five year-old lady, an attractive lady as you will see in the video.
‘He just fancied her and couldn’t resist sexually assaulting her. It was quite a forceful massage and she made noises when he hit a painful spot.
‘She talks about moaning, but not with a sexual meaning. He started imitating what she was saying, like it was turning into some sort of pornographic fantasy.
‘The defendant seems to have been caught up in the excitement of it all and acting out a sexual pleasure.
‘He told the officers he was sexually aroused and had crossed the line. That’s quite close to admitting sexual assault and he says he got carried away in the moment and that it felt consensual.’
Kingston-upon-Thames Crown Court (pictured) Judge John Lodge ordered Stannard to pay £600 towards the victim’s twenty-three private psychotherapy sessions she needed after he molested her
When cross-examined the woman was asked about the noises she made and said it was ‘wrong’ to conclude she was ‘aroused’ during the massage.
She was asked why she did not ask Stannard to stop, replying: ‘It happened so quickly, I was in shock. I didn’t know what to say.’
Additionally, the woman was questioned as to whether moving her bum and hips could be ‘misconstrued’ as joining in with the sexual behaviour.
Stannard’s lawyer John Livingston told the court: ‘This is a man who is generally a kind and sensitive individual. This was out of character behaviour, crossing the line of professionalism in his line of work, which he has been doing for a number of years.
‘This is the only incident of any complaint and the woman researched before booking the massage and the results indicated he was good at his job and helped a lot of people.
‘It seems to have been an isolated incident of losing his proper professional judgement and now he is very remorseful about it.’
However, in his Probation Service interview Stannard repeated his claim he believed the woman was genuinely sexually aroused.
‘That may be the result of extreme embarrassment of what he did and his remorse,’ added Mr Livingston. ‘The chances of his reoffending are low and going through the trial process has been traumatic.
‘He has learned a very big lesson in the harshest possible way and has no intention of risking repeating any sort of offending.
‘He had to stop his massage work. That has not been feasible since the start of this case and he is now a delivery driver for Uber Eats.’
Judge Lodge concluded: ‘The work of Horizon and the rehabilitation activity requirement will provide a realistic prospect of rehabilitation and reduce the risk of further offending so the sentence can be suspended.’
Stannard was also made subject to a ten-year Sexual Harm Prevention Order, prohibiting him providing any physical, mental or spiritual therapy and he must sign the sex offenders register for the same period of time.
original source: Massage therapist spared jail after acting out ‘pornographic fantasy’ when he molested patient