Ex-Tory MP Charlie Elphicke ‘changed sex assault defence after lockdown chat with wife’

Charlie Elphicke and his wife
Former Conservative MP Charlie Elphicke, left, with his wife Natalie, right. Credit: PA

Former Conservative MP Charlie Elphicke decided to change his defence in his sexual assault trial during lockdown after his legally trained wife pored over evidence in the case, a court has heard.

Prosecutor Eloise Marshall QC said it was only during the coronavirus pandemic, when Elphicke said papers relating to the case were strewn around his home, that he “realised the lies” he had told to police could be disproved.

Elphicke is accused of groping one woman in his home in 2007 while Natalie Elphicke, his wife and successor as Dover MP, was away on work business for the first time since giving birth to their son.

He is also accused of sexually assaulting a second complainant, a parliamentary worker in her early 20s, twice in 2016.

Elphicke admitted to police in 2018 that he had an affair with a third woman – not a complainant in this trial – but distanced himself from the parliamentary worker.

He said he kissed the first complainant under “misapprehension” but denies sexual assault.

However, entering the witness box at Southwark Crown Court this week, Elphicke told jurors he had lied to police about his true feelings for the parliamentary worker, saying he was “besotted” with her and “lost his head”.

Former Conservative MP Elphicke. Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA

He said he did not tell police about propositioning her because he was concerned Mrs Elphicke would – wrongly – think he was having an affair and that it would effectively be the final straw for their marriage.

Elphicke told jurors it was only when his wife, who is not a witness in the case, was going over text messages between her husband and the young woman during lockdown that she accused him of having an affair, partly due to kisses on text messages and a reference to “cat cuddles”, he said.

Ms Marshall described it as “a pack of lies”, citing only three kisses in more than 1,000 texts between them.

She told the 49-year-old father-of-two: “It was only when you and wife went under lockdown you realised the lies you had told about (the parliamentary worker) could be disproved.

“You’re boxed into a corner and you’ve got no other choice.

“It’s not (the first and second complainant) who’ve lied, it’s you who’s lied.”

Elphicke said: “No, I didn’t – I didn’t sexually assault (either woman).”

The prosecutor said: “You sexually assaulted both of them in the way they have described, didn’t you?”

Elphicke replied: “No.”

Ex-MP Elphicke arrives at Southwark Crown Court with his wife, Natalie, current Tory MP for Dover. Credit: Victoria Jones / PA

Elphicke denied, under re-examination from defence counsel Ian Winter QC, any suggestion he and his wife had “conspired” over the case.

He added: “I got myself into a situation, I dug myself into a hole.

“It was only when we had it out (an argument after she went through the evidence) that I was able to sort this whole mess out for good.”

Mr Winter asked: “Have you looked the jury in the eye and lied to them?”

Elphicke replied: “I’ve not lied to them.”

Mr Winter asked: “Is there any truth in the allegation that you have sexually assaulted these women?”

Elphicke replied: “No.”

The prosecutor also accused Elphicke of using his friend, former attorney general Dominic Grieve, to protect him when summoned to speak to senior party figures about the allegations, without telling Mr Grieve he had propositioned the parliamentary worker.

Ms Marshall said: “You hid behind the former attorney general having lied to him about what happened with (the woman).”

Elphicke replied: “I did not lie to him.”

Elphicke denies three counts of sexual assault.

The trial was adjourned until Thursday.

The 11 jurors were told they would likely be sent to consider their deliberations early next week.