Warrant officer denies three sexual assaults

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A SENIOR Royal Navy non-commissioned officer groped a junior colleague while telling her he could help her career if ‘she helped him out’, a court martial has heard.

Warrant Officer Stephen Vernon is accused of three charges of sexual assault alleged to have happened during a swing band night at Moby Dick’s Bar at HMS Excellent in Portsmouth on January 26 last year.

Lieutenant Colonel Victoria Phillips, prosecuting, told the court martial at Portsmouth Naval Base that the 52-year-old had bought a ticket for the complainant for the event and even offered her the use of his cabin for the night if she needed accommodation.

During the night, Vernon, of the Defence Diving School, is alleged to have assaulted her three times while he drank at the bar.

Lt Col Phillips said: ‘The first sexual touching took place when WO1 Vernon pulled her towards him, saying words to the effect of “you are my ass”, then he reached his arm behind her body and placed his hand on her backside, applying pressure for a matter of seconds.’

Lt Col Phillips said the second offence involved the defendant rubbing the complainant’s back and breast over her clothing before on the third occasion putting his hand down her trousers.

She alleged Vernon told the complainant that he knew she wanted to gain promotion, before saying: ‘I can help you there if you help me out. Why do you think I offered you my cabin for the night?’

The complainant’s demeanour changed following the alleged assaults, according to Lt Col Phillips, as Vernon tried to contact her.

She continued: ‘This was a cynical attempt on his part to ensure there would be no consequences from his misconduct that night.’

Vernon denies the charges and the trial continues.