Disgraced former Conservative MP Charlie Elphicke has been sentenced to two years in jail after he was found guilty of three sexual assaults against two younger women.
Elphicke showed no emotion as he was sentenced today and collected a small holdall before being taken from the dock into custody.
The 49-year-old former MP for Dover, who appeared in court alone, immediately released a statement following the verdict, announcing his intention to appeal and insisting he was innocent.
The judge had told him: ‘You made your victims come to court. They told the truth, and you told a pack of lies – not only to the jury, but your wife, the whips and the police.’
Elphicke declared himself a ‘naughty Tory’ as he chased his first victim around his central London family home in summer 2007, moments after groping her while they shared a bottle of wine.
He also groped a second woman, a parliamentary worker in her early 20s with whom he was ‘besotted’, twice in a month while Dover MP in 2016.
The court heard Elphicke, a father of two and qualified lawyer, lied to police, senior colleagues and his own wife about what happened.
Wife Natalie Elphicke – his successor as Dover MP last year – only learned of his emotional attachment to the parliamentary worker when she looked over case files during lockdown.
Mrs Elphicke announced the end of her 25-year marriage on Twitter as she sat in a taxi leaving court less than an hour after the verdicts were returned.
She had previously stood by her husband’s side during his trial.
Former Conservative MP Charlie Elphicke arriving at Southwark Crown Court in London to be sentenced for three counts of sexual assault
Mrs Elphicke announced the end of her 25-year marriage on Twitter as she sat in a taxi leaving court less than an hour after the verdicts were returned in July
Natalie Elphicke tweeted that her marriage to the ‘only man I have ever loved’ was over after 25 years after he was convicted
She broke the news to Elphicke and their young son earlier, and later said she found the court ordeal ‘horrible, humiliating’.
Elphicke also kept an affair with a third woman between 2015 and 2017 secret from his wife until his arrest in 2018.
Elphick’s statement, released by a spokesperson after the verdict, said: ‘Two weeks ago, my legal team sought leave to appeal my conviction to the Court of Appeal. That application is made on a number of grounds which demonstrate that my trial was unfair and my conviction unsafe.
‘I know that I am innocent of any criminal wrongdoing and will continue to fight to clear my name.’
Neither the victims, or the third woman, can be identified for legal reasons.
Prosecutor Eloise Marshall QC, reading a statement from the first victim ahead of the sentencing today, said the effect of what Elphicke did ‘had a lasting impact’, and said she had a ‘significantly increased sense of caution’ when coming into contact with men, including taxi drivers and butchers.
The fall from grace of ‘naughty Tory’ Charlie Elphicke
Former MP Charlie Elphicke’s fall from grace was steady – though it sank from one low point to another within the space of 30 minutes inside Southwark Crown Court on July 30.
Shortly before lunchtime, the jury foreman returned guilty verdicts in each count of sexual assault the 49-year-old faced, leaving any prospect of a swift return to politics doomed.
Minutes later, in the drab setting of a court side room, he was dumped by the wife who accompanied him hand-in-hand into the building throughout the trial yet was absent from the courtroom itself.
Natalie Elphicke, who was her husband’s political successor as Dover MP, then left the court alone and climbed into a waiting cab, announcing to the world on social media that their 25-year marriage was over.
It left a stony-faced Elphicke to face the thronging cameras outside without his hitherto closest confidante.
Some time later, in what has become a totem of shame in the digital age, his website and Twitter pages disappeared.
It was a far cry from the summer of 2016, when Elphicke was entrusted within Parliament to ensure discipline among the Conservative Party’s MPs.
Yet, while Elphicke was whipping junior colleagues as the Lord Commissioner of the Treasury, privately he was himself falling well short of party standards – and committing crimes.
The father-of-two told jurors that not only was he cheating on his wife by having an affair with a woman in her 20s, he was also inundating a parliamentary worker in her early 20s with messages as he sought to woo her.
‘I felt very strongly about her,’ Elphicke told the court. ‘She was really lovely and I lost my head over her.’
However, jurors decided it was much more than that, convicting Elphicke not of infidelity but of sexual offences – three counts of assault on two women, the younger of whom was two decades his junior.
Elphicke was a member of the Class of 2010 intake of Tory MPs alongside the likes of Sajid Javid, Dominic Raab and Priti Patel.
He had been selected as the party’s candidate for Dover three years earlier, while a tax lawyer in his mid-30s, living with his wife and two young children just off Sloane Square in central London.
Elphicke became a Government whip under David Cameron’s premiership in 2015, but returned to the back benches when Theresa May came to power the following year.
The parliamentary worker, who met up with Elphicke to challenge him about groping her in Westminster earlier that year, later confided in friends that the demotion ‘really hit him hard’.
Elphicke had the party whip suspended in November 2017 as the sexual assault allegations were passed to police, although it was controversially reinstated a year later when Mrs May faced a confidence vote, only to be removed again.
Elphicke admitted lying to party bosses, the police and to his wife about various elements of the case, with Mrs Elphicke only discovering his desire for an affair with the parliamentary worker when she pored over case details during lockdown.
Elphicke said his accusers were lying – he admitted kissing the first complainant, a woman in her early 30s who he said he did not find attractive, but denied groping her and chasing her round his London home chanting ‘I’m a naughty Tory’.
And he denied sexually assaulting the parliamentary worker he had fallen for, apparently declaring his love of Abba to her in the hope they were on mutual ground before he launched himself on her.
Elphicke’s barrister told jurors it was likely his client was guilty of being a bad husband and behaving foolishly.
The jury considered that behaviour to be criminal.
She said: ‘The logical part of my brain is telling me to be polite to them but the emotional side is making me stressed.’
Ms Marshall said: ‘Even to the extent that when the (police) officers came to take an account from her, she found it difficult to be alone with them.
‘She says she avoided being alone with men in general.’
The statement added: ‘It took me a long time to get back on my feet (following the assault).’
Concluding with her thoughts on the verdict, the woman – who cannot be named – said: ‘I feel heard. Thank you.’
The second victim, a former Parliamentary worker in her 20s, said in her impact statement, sections of which were read before the court: ‘I still remember how he made me feel, I still know those feelings of fear and helplessness.
‘I do believe as a result of what happened, it changed how I perceived myself.
‘Because of his acts, he stole a large part of my self-worth and self-esteem.’
Prosecutor Eloise Marshall said Elphicke ‘affected her dreams’, with the victim – who cannot be named – adding: ‘My inner scars will always be there.’
Ian Winter QC, defending Charlie Elphicke, urged the judge not to jail his client and said he was now the primary carer for his teenage son.
He told the judge: ‘Shortly, Mr Elphicke’s descent into total disgrace will be complete.
‘He has lost his wife, his daughter of 20 years is estranged from him as a direct result of his conviction, and his son, aged 13, has received sustained and quite vicious bullying at his school.’
He said the boy was taunted by people calling his father ‘a rapist’, prompting him to ‘collapse academically’, and he is ‘extremely psychologically vulnerable’.
Mr Winter added of his client: ‘A lesson has been fully and completely learned.’
He added that the pre-sentence report found that the risk of re-offending was ‘extremely low’.
Mr Winter said: ‘I can assure you on his behalf that it will never happen again.
‘When one steps back and looks at the man you are sentencing today, you do have somebody who is essentially a good man.’
He said there were 34 character witnesses supporting Charlie Elphicke, including ‘serving Members of Parliament’, but did not disclose their names.
A statement from Elphicke’s estranged wife described how one of the ‘green shoots’ of the circumstances was his improved bond with his 13-year-old son, saying they enjoyed activities such as gardening, baking, sailing, chess and Scrabble.
Mr Winter said how Mrs Elphicke praised her estranged husband’s ‘careful and gentle way’ of helping their son.
Mr Winter said of the son: ‘He’s been cut off from people he thought were his friends… he has suffered in an academic way.’
Mr Winter said the Elphickes’ daughter, now 20, no longer spoke to her family.
He added: ‘She was heading to Oxbridge but she can’t because her grades were so poor.’
Mr Winter said his client had ‘no assets to his name’, saying that the Kent family home was ‘on the market, though not selling and not viewing’.
He said Elphicke had ‘a fair bit of debt’, adding that his estranged wife loaned him £100,000 to pay for legal bills, but that he owes his lawyers ‘more than that’.
Mr Winter said Elphicke applied for legal aid but was refused on means grounds.
He said Elphicke was currently unemployed.
The hearing was adjourned for 20 minutes for the judge, Mrs Justice Whipple, to consider the verdicts.
Elphicke, whose official Twitter account and website disappeared following his conviction, was told by judge Mrs Justice Whipple there was ‘a very real possibility’ he will be jailed ahead of today’s sentencing.
The court heard how the first offence took place when Elphicke invited a woman in her early 30s to share a drink with him while his children were asleep and his wife was up country with work – the first time she had been away since the birth of their son.
The woman said Elphicke asked her about bondage and sex, then kissed her and groped her breast before chasing her around his home.
Breaking down in court, she told jurors: ‘I was just shocked – really, really shocked.
‘He was saying really bizarre things that are embarrassing, like ‘I’m a naughty Tory’.
‘He was trying to grope me and trying to grab my bum.’
The second complainant said Elphicke also tried to kiss her and then groped her when they met for a drink in Westminster in April 2016.
He then told her: ‘I’m so naughty sometimes.’
The victim said: ‘He had his mouth open, continually trying to kiss me.
‘It was like a disgusting, slobbery mess.’
She said she spurned Elphicke’s sexual advances, telling jurors she was physically repulsed by him, and that Elphicke told her he had ‘not been happy for years’ in his marriage.
She said he assaulted her again the following month when he ran his hand up her thigh towards her groin.
Elphicke said he kissed the first victim because he initially felt it was something they both wanted.
He told jurors he was ‘besotted’ with the second complainant, but denied assaulting either of them.
The court heard Elphicke initially denied any knowledge of the allegations against the parliamentary worker when he was summoned before Tory party whips in January 2017.
He later called on his ‘friend’, the former attorney general Dominic Grieve, to accompany him to a second meeting, although he failed to mention to Mr Grieve that he had strong feelings for the woman.
Elphicke also admitted lying to police about the same issue, banking on him not being prosecuted and therefore being able to keep it from his wife.
Elphicke wept as he admitted lying to police and admitted not telling the truth to police when they asked him about the parliamentary worker in her 20s he is accused of sexually assaulting in 2016.
He said he didn’t want to ‘put my marriage in jeopardy’ and that it would ’cause chaos’.
He later added: ‘I should not have lied to the police, I should have just fronted it up.’
Elphicke broke down again as he described to the court how his marriage ‘hangs by a thread’ after keeping from his wife that he had propositioned the second complainant.
It was only when his wife – a trained solicitor – went through material in the case in March this year that the full extent of his feelings for the complainant became clear to her, the court heard.
Elphicke said: ‘She (Mrs Elphicke) became very cross with me because she thought I had an affair.
‘She said she thought I had an affair and she had it out with me.
‘I said I had not had an affair but I propositioned (the second complainant).
‘She (Mrs Elphicke) was very upset. It was very, very difficult.’
Describing the status of his marriage, Elphicke said: ‘She (Mrs Elphicke) comes into court with me every day.
‘She’s supporting me throughout proceedings. But things are not good. It hangs by a thread.
‘I’ve got a lot of work to do. She’s most upset that I didn’t tell her at the outset.’
He added: ‘I’ve made a complete mess of everything.’
Mrs Elphicke announced she was leaving her husband after he was convicted for the sex attacks.
Elphicke became a government whip under David Cameron’s premiership in 2015, but returned to the back benches when Theresa May came to power the following year.
Elphicke had the party whip suspended in 2017 when allegations of sexual assault first emerged, but it was controversially reinstated a year later for a crucial confidence vote in then-prime minister Mrs May.
The Conservative Party is facing serious questions over its handling of allegations against Elphicke after he had the whip restored while he was being investigated by police.
Mrs May was facing what was expected to be a knife-edge vote tabled by hardline Brexit Conservatives angry at her withdrawal policy.
The move to bring him back into the fold during Mrs May’s tenure has been described as ‘appalling’ by Anna Soubry, who was a Tory MP at the time.
Miss Soubry said: ‘If she did know about it, it’s quite remarkable that she let it happen.’
The whip was withdrawn again the following summer when the Crown Prosecution Service announced its decision to charge Elphicke.
Last month, police arrested an unnamed Conservative former minister on suspicion of rape. He was released on bail until November.
Earlier this month, it was revealed that Elphicke’s home has gone up for sale for £1.4million as he faces jail following his sexual assault convictions – and ahead of his impending divorce.
The disgraced Conservative politician has listed his £1.4million property in Dover, Kent, for sale following his three-week trial and conviction on July 30.
He shared the four-bedroom property The Edge with his wife Natalie, who succeeded him as MP for the area in 2019.
The St Margaret’s Bay property is thought to be the most valuable in its area.
The announcement of the sale comes following Ms Elphicke’s announcement that she is filing for divorce despite standing by her husband’s side for three-and-a-half weeks in court.