The former Conservative MP Charlie Elphicke has failed in an attempt to seek leave to appeal against his two-year sentence for sexual assaults against two women.
The judge who oversaw his trial was right to conclude that the former politician was someone prepared to exploit women for sexual purposes, judges at the court of appeal ruled.
Elphicke, who represented the constituency of Dover in Kent from 2010 until 2019, was convicted in July last year of the charges, two in relation to a parliamentary worker in 2016 and one in relation to a woman at his family’s central London home in 2007.
His barrister advanced an application at the Royal Courts of Justice for leave to appeal on a number of the grounds of harm, culpability, mitigation and suspension.
The judge had not fully taken the impact of Covid-19 into account in imposing a custodial sentence, argued Rachna Gokani, who added that Elphicke had not seen his 13-year-old son for six months. Conditions in prison due to the pandemic had been such that the 49-year-old had spent 47 hours inside his cell on one occasion and had also caught Covid-19.
However, the court of appeal judges rejected her arguments, including the contention that the trial judge should have categorised harm caused by Elphicke’s actions in a different way and that one of the two women he assaulted should not have been categorised as vulnerable at the time.
In the case of one of the women, who was assaulted by him in 2007, the judges said he had perpetrated a “hard, deliberate grope” involving a mixture of contact with her bra and breast. It was an “aggressive” assault while she was vulnerable and she had to push him off.
Delivering the ruling, Lady Justice Carr said Mrs Justice Whipple’s description of Elphicke as a “sexual predator” was an emotive phrase but it did not affect the sentencing.
“We asked ourselves whether, standing back, there is any arguable basis to contend that the overall sentence of two years’ immediate imprisonment is manifestly excessive,” she said in the judges’ conclusion, which found the original trial judge was right to pass consecutive sentences for offences that involved separate victims and that took place years apart.
There was no realistic basis for impugning the custodial terms that were arrived at, the judges said, which reflected the “undoubted seriousness of the offences”.