Royal Navy commander on trial for sexually assaulting female officer at Christmas party in Portsmouth

A ROYAL Navy officer who received an MBE from Prince Charles drunkenly slapped a fellow officer's bottom so hard he left her buttock 'sore', a court martial heard.

Tuesday, 30th October 2018, 10:31 am
Updated Wednesday, 31st October 2018, 4:00 am
Commander Steven Heap at Bulford Court Martial. Photo: Solent News & Photo Agency

Commander Steven Heap had been drinking for several hours when he followed the woman, also a commander, onto the dance floor at a navy base party and slapped her as she danced. When the shocked woman, who said he had left her right buttock 'sore' from the slap, allegedly fled and later returned to the dance floor, his right hand struck her backside a second time. A court martial heard the 48-year-old accepts he slapped the senior officer's bottom, but claimed he was simply 'joking about'. Heap, who was based at HMS Excellent in Portsmouth, at the time, joined the navy 30 years ago as a submariner and now works as a nuclear force inspector. The commander received an MBE from the Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace in 2013. The court martial heard Heap had been at a navy base Christmas party when he drunkenly slapped his victim's bottom. Prosecutor Wing Commander Michael Saunders told the court Heap initially approached the woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, at the bar earlier in the evening. Despite her allegedly wanting nothing to do with him, he then followed her to the dance floor and twice sexually assaulted her, the court heard. The prosecutor said: '˜There was a function, which started at midday and lasted until late at night. '˜Sometime after 6pm, after a band had started playing, the defendant slapped the buttock of the complainant on two occasions. '˜The facts are not in dispute, the defendant accepts he did behave in that way. He says it was not sexual, he was simply joking about. '˜In essence though, he came up to her, pointed at something behind her and slapped her backside. '˜Then, 20 minutes later she went back onto the dance floor. He approached her again, slapped her bottom again in a similar fashion.' Giving evidence today at the trial, the woman told the court a drunken Heap had left her backside 'sore' from the 'firm' slaps at the party. She said she was having a '˜private conversation' when a drunken Heap kept '˜disturbing' them.

'˜He was clearly very drunk, staff had said they were not going to serve him any more, I found out, and based on my interaction with him at the bar, I wanted nothing more to do with him,' she said. '˜I was in civilian clothing at the time and I was enjoying myself with friends. But I became aware of somebody on my right hand side. '˜The defendant pointed to something and I went to turn to see what it was and felt a slap to my right butt cheek. It was a firm slap with his right hand. '˜I was very taken aback by what happened. I did not confront him, I just removed myself from the situation.' She added: '˜I was trying to enjoy myself still and put what had happened behind me. I thought maybe it was just a mistake. '˜I didn't want it to ruin my evening, so again I went back on to the dancefloor '“ the band were very good. '˜But again, I was aware of him in close proximity to me and there was a second slap to the buttock. '˜It was much the same as the first one, with his right hand to my right buttock, which was already sore from the first slap. '˜Again I thought it was weird and inappropriate, but he was really drunk and I wanted to get the hell out of there.'

In mitigation Heap said he was sorry for his actions, which he likened to a '˜childish prank'.

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Commander Steven Heap at Bulford Court Martial. Photo: Solent News & Photo Agency

'˜I thought it would be amusing, it was childish showboating, a ridiculous moment,' he said.

When asked by prosecutor Wg Cdr Saunders what he found amusing in slapping a woman's bottom, Heap replied: '˜Today, absolutely nothing. At the time, I thought it would be amusing.

'˜I was not trying it on with her, if I was I would not have gone about it in that manner.

'˜It was like a childhood prank where you say 'oh, what's that on your jumper' and then slap the person on the chin when they look down.

Pictured: Commander Steven Heap at Bulford Court Martial today. Photo: Solent News & Photo Agency

'˜It was a joke, that was my thought process at the time.'

Heap, of Poole, Dorset, denies two counts of sexual assault.

The trial at Bulford Military Court, Wiltshire, continues.

Commander Steven Heap is accused of sexually assaulting a female officer at a Christmas party. Photo: Solent News & Photo Agency