Met police officer found guilty of sexually assaulting woman on Brighton stag do two weeks before wedding

29 June 2023, 15:00 | Updated: 29 June 2023, 15:12

Laurence Knight was found guilty of sexual assault, but not guilty of rape
Laurence Knight was found guilty of sexual assault, but not guilty of rape. Picture: Alamy

By Kit Heren

A Metropolitan Police officer has been found guilty of sexually assaulting a stranger in the sea while on his stag-do in Brighton a fortnight before his wedding.

But Sergeant Laurence Knight, 34, was found not guilty of rape at Southwark Crown Court on Thursday.

He had denied both charges, claiming that his sexual contact with a woman he had met that night was consensual.

But was convicted of sexual assault by a majority of 10:2 after the jury deliberated for more than seven hours.

Knight, of Leyton in east London, had spent the evening with friends being entertained by strippers at an Airbnb to celebrate his stag do in July 2021.

Afterwards, Knight and his stag group went drinking with the 21-year-old woman on Brighton beach after meeting her in the city.

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Laurence Knight
Laurence Knight. Picture: Alamy

At the time, Covid restrictions were still in place, meaning many bars were shut.

Shortly afterwards, Knight, who is based at Stoke Newington police station in North London, persuaded the girl into joining him in the sea, after telling her he was having a "rubbish night".

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Brighton beach is a popular tourist hotspot
Brighton beach is a popular tourist hotspot. Picture: Alamy

Maryam Syed, prosecuting, told the court earlier that Knight: "took advantage of this young woman who was clearly in drink."

Ms Syed said: "[The woman] tells police that when they get to the sea front, the defendant wanted to go into the sea, and she did not wish to do that.But he sought to persuade her, by telling her that it was his stag night, he was meant to be having fun, but it was turning into a rubbish night.

"She explained to police that he looked like he was going to cry, so she then relented and said yes.

"She did not wish to get her dress wet, so she went into the water wearing her underwear. She was not touching the defendant nor was he touching her at that point, they were simply treading water in the same area of the sea."

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Sketch of Knight in court
Sketch of Knight in court. Picture: Alamy

The victim said in her police interview: "I was facing away from the shore and he kind of came up behind me and so we were both facing the same direction and he was behind me.

"I just remember it being really uncomfortable and it really hurt. I just said to him 'What', like, 'what are you doing, stop' and he didn't."

"He didn't reply to me at any point. He was just completely silent and I just kept saying, I literally just kept repeating: 'Don't', like 'What are you doing?'

"I said, 'You're getting married in two weeks. Just stop, don't do that' and he just didn't stop."

A member of Knight's group came up to the victim after the assault and said: "Oh, Larry [Knight's nickname] wants me to tell you that he's sorry."

Knight on his way to court
Knight on his way to court. Picture: Alamy

After Knight left, the complainant told her friends: "I think I need to call the police. It is an emergency, I don't really know."

Knight had claimed that the woman had first touched his genitals, before he touched hers for a few seconds. He said that she had reminded him about his upcoming wedding, at which point that they had returned to the beach.

Asked during cross-examination why he went into the sea with her, he replied: "Quite honestly, I quite enjoyed having the attention. It was a very spur-of-the-moment request from her, it was not discussed before.

"Having had some alcohol and being the stag and being the one that everything was deflected towards, I suppose the phrase is 'peer pressure'."

Asked who the peer pressure was coming from, Knight said: "I may have applied it myself."

The court heard that he tried to send the woman a Facebook message on July 21 that year, saying: "You are not (the woman) that went for a dip in the sea on Friday whilst her guy friend looked after her bag?"

The defendant, who worked for a charity and as a teacher before joining the police, told jurors he had sent the message "to acknowledge I was embarrassed. She was younger, perhaps less mature and she was the one that stepped in and stopped it going any further."

He said he later deleted the message because he became worried that his fiancee would see it. He also told jurors his "initial reaction" to his arrest was believing he was being subjected to "an extended prank from the stag do".

He was arrested on July 28 last year and was suspended from duties while the investigation took place. The Met have referred the incident to the Independent Office for Police Conduct, and a misconduct hearing will take place.

Knight's sentencing date is yet to be fixed.

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