Met Police sergeant, 34, is jailed for two years after sexually assaulting woman in the sea off Brighton beach on his stag do when he wanted ‘some last minute fun’
- Laurence Knight carried out attack after his group were entertained by strippers
A Met Police sergeant who sexually assaulted a stranger off Brighton beach on his stag night was today jailed for two years.
Laurence ‘Larry’ Knight, 34, carried out the attack after his group were entertained by strippers at their Airbnb in the Sussex resort.
Knight, who wore his wedding ring throughout the trial, met the 21-year-old victim in Brighton town centre on July 17, 2021 while social distancing rules were still in place due to , Covid-19.
They headed for the sea and were treading water together when Knight complained he was having a ‘rubbish night’ and was meant to enjoying himself.
Former Oxford University student Knight moved her underwear to one side and touched her intimately after she told him: ‘You’re getting married in two weeks’.
Laurence ‘Larry’ Knight, 34, carried out the attack after his group were entertained by strippers at their Airbnb in the Sussex resort
The police sergeant, who was based at Stoke Newington police station in north London at the time, denied rape and sexual assault.
The court also heard that he used to work in royalty protection.
Knight was convicted of sexual assault by a jury last month but cleared of rape.
Summing up a victim impact statement from the victim Maryam Syed, prosecuting, said: ‘She had to seek counselling much of which she had to fund herself.
‘She has suffered fear, she has suffered anxiety, she has suffered some very dark thoughts over the course of this matter.
‘Taken together, if this is not deemed severe psychological harm, what would be.’
The victim’s mother read an impact statement to the court.
‘When I discovered what had happened the bottom fell out of my world,’ she said.
‘She was broken, defeated, unrecognisable as my precious daughter who is usually so full of life.
‘Her innocent view of the world and of those in it was destroyed that night…’
‘She was always fearless, always the person brave enough to walk up to someone and say she wanted to be their friend.’
Ms Syed argued that the fact that Knight was a police officer is an aggravating feature even though he was off-duty.
‘He is trained to deal with those who are vulnerable and in drink, particularly young women.’
The officer arrived at Westminster Magistrates Court with his wedding ring on his left hand
She referenced the cases of John Carrick and Wayne Couzens and said police officers are ‘charged with upholding the law and are empowered to do so.’
‘We say, as emphasised in the Couzens case and in the Carrick case, somebody who has taken an oath as a police officer on-duty or not, is not a typical defendant.’
‘We submit that, considering all the features outlined, a suspended sentence order would not meet the justice of this case.’
Alisa Williamson, defending Knight, said the victim might start to recover now that the trial is over.
‘It is hoped that now the trial has reached its conclusion she will be able to move on from that.
‘In general an offence is not made more serious by the location of the offence.
‘While they were away from others they were not far away from others. This is different to a case where someone is taken to a place where they cannot seek help.’
‘The defendant has now resigned from the police force.’
Ms Williamson argued that the consequences Knight has suffered as a result of his behavior is punishment enough.
‘Careers that he is suited to such as teaching will all be closed to him now that he has a conviction for a sexual assault.
‘He will be barred from joining any other police service.’
The court heard that his wife remains supportive and that he has a baby daughter born last November.
Knight met the 21-year-old victim in Brighton town centre on July 17, 2021
‘This overshadowed what should have been the happiest day of his life’, said Ms Williamson.
‘His reputation and good name has gone. The punishment he has brought on himself through his own conduct is so severe that in my submission this is not a case where punishment can only be achieved by immediate custody.’
The officer looked somber as he was jailed for two years.
Judge Peter Rook told him: ‘I have no doubt that your actions caused her severe psychological harm.
‘In a recent statement dated 5 July she stated that it had had a profound on her family relationships and her ability to work.’
‘She said: ‘I used to be a warm kind, trusting person, and now I am mistrustful, sceptical, anxious and afraid’.’
The judge accepted that Knight soon regretted his actions, as he tried to apologise to her and communicate with someone he believed to be her on Facebook.
‘I have no doubt that you soon regretted your actions, as you tried to locate her and communicate with her.’
But the judge added: ‘Her mother described how a once confident, ambitious, vibrant young woman has quickly transcended into her becoming a reserved, cautious, hyper-vigilant shell of a person.’
Judge Rook said that Knight had ‘engineered’ a situation where he would be in the sea and would be able to have sexual contact with her.
‘You engineered a situation where you were in the sea a few metres away from others with a view to having sexual activity with her.’
The judge emphasised that the fact that the young woman had been drinking made her more vulnerable.
‘Because of your role [as a police officer], you would have been aware of the vulnerability of women in drink.’
‘This offence is too serious for the sentence to be suspended.’
Knight will serve half of his two year prison sentence in custody.
A restraining order was put in place banning him from contacting the victim until further order.
He will also be on the sex offenders register for ten years.
Members of his family wept in court as he was jailed.
Knight, who studied chemistry at Balliol College, Oxford, admitted he pulled the woman’s bikini bottoms to one side but said he stopped when he realised what he was doing was wrong.
He insisted there was ‘no way’ he could have penetrated her during the encounter.
Maryam Syed, prosecuting, said earlier that the complainant and her friends were intending to head to the beach with a bottle of wine when they bumped into the officer’s group in the town centre.
‘The defendant was in Brighton on his stag night with a group of friends.
‘Earlier in the evening they had been at the Airbnb where they were staying where they had been visited by some strippers.
‘They had gone out to the bars in the Brighton area.
‘During this time, social distancing rules were still in place because of COVID-19, and many bars were not open or had closed early.
‘The group containing the defendant, then met the group containing the complainant and indicated they were looking for somewhere else to drink and were complaining about the lack of choice.
‘The complainant suggested that the bars on the beach might still be open.
‘The two groups ended up walking there together, although there was no arrangement that they were going to go to the same bar to drink. As they moved forward, they were chatting.
‘As the interactions between the groups continued, the complainant was helping them and being friendly and you will see on the CCTV that at various points she hugs members of the other group and at one point for a short while she held hands with the defendant before they continue to walk separately.’
The complainant told police two days later she did not want to go in the sea, but Knight insisted.
She said Knight’s group were ‘quite talkative and quite funny’.
‘They were acting quite jovial and acting quite loud and having a chat with us.’
Whilst speaking to Knight before heading to the beach, the woman said: ‘He had a blonde wig, he never wore it, but it was tucked into the crotch of his trousers.
‘I gave Larry some of the wine I had. He had a few gulps out of the bottle. He was like, oh yeah, I need another drink, I need another drink.
‘The demeanour [of Knight and his friends] was quite chatty, a lot of jokes thrown back and forth.’
The woman confirmed that she had three glasses of rose and one gin and tonic.
‘[I was] a bit more than tipsy. I wouldn’t describe myself as really drunk at all.
‘Me and my friend were just going to chill a bit before going home. It wasn’t really discussed but we started all just walking to the seafront together.
‘At the beach we’re all kind of sitting there. A guy who said his name was Larry, but could have been a nickname, he said he wanted to go in the sea.
‘Us two were a little bit further away from the others. He suggested going into the sea. I said ‘oh, it’s a bit cold’.
‘He said: ‘Oh, please it’s my stag do and it’s turned out rubbish’.
‘I don’t know why, but I felt he was going to cry so I thought ok.
‘I took my dress off, he got undressed.’
The woman said she was in a bikini bottom and wearing a bra.
‘I was in a rush that day so I just wore bikini bottoms.
‘Larry was wearing, I think, nothing. He got fully undressed I think.’
The pair then moved out away from the group into the sea.
‘We were about waist-height in the water, but we were able to stand up properly.
‘We were close, we weren’t touching. We were just treading water next to each other.
‘We were two metres away [from each other]. We were just talking. Talking about him getting married. I was saying are you looking forward to it, he said yeah, he was really excited.
‘I didn’t feel cold, maybe because I had a couple of glasses of wine at that point.
‘For a little bit we were just in silence.
‘It all seemed very civil and there was nothing out of the ordinary. I was facing away from the shore and he kind of came up behind me and we were both facing the same direction.
‘He moved my underwear to the side and started rubbing me really hard. I remember it being really uncomfortable and it really hurt.
‘I was like, what are you doing? Again, he didn’t say anything.
‘I said you can’t do this, what are you doing?’
In relation to the rape charge, Ailsa Williamson, defending Knight, had suggested in cross examination the woman could have mistaken the officer’s penis for her tampon.
Knight, of Leyton, east London, denied rape and sexual assault. He was found guilty of sexual assault and cleared of rape.
Jayne Cioffi from the Crown Prosecution Service said: ‘As a police officer Knight clearly understood the concept of consent and realised that, without consent, he would be committing a sexual assault, but set what he knew aside for his own selfish reasons.
‘He persuaded his victim to go into the water with him and then callously took advantage of a woman he had just met.
‘It was immediately clear to her friend as soon as she came out of the sea that something terrible had happened. She called the police immediately and, when officers arrived at the scene, they found her crying and hyperventilating.
‘Knight said he had just wanted a bit of last minute fun on his stag night but his actions have had a devastating impact on his victim and, as a police officer, he would have been only too well aware of that.
‘I would like to thank the complainant for reporting what had happened to her.’
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