First day in court for Sir Philip Green’s accuser
SIR PHILIP GREEN faced his first court hearing yesterday into alleged criminal misconduct after a fitness instructor accused him of groping her at a luxury spa resort.
US prosecutors charged the Topshop billionaire with four counts of assault in May after Katie Surridge told The Daily Telegraph that he fondled her bottom repeatedly and made sexual comments despite being warned to stop.
Ms Surridge, 38, appeared alongside her husband and legal team at the first hearing in the case yesterday at Pima County Justice Court in Tucson, Arizona. Sir Philip was absent from proceedings after his lawyers successfully appealed to waive the usual requirement to appear in person.
The decision by US authorities to prosecute Sir Philip has increased pressure on Scotland Yard to launch a full investigation into claims made by his alleged victims in Britain. If proved, the charges are likely to add to pressure on parliamentary authorities to strip Sir Philip of his knighthood
During the brief hearing, prosecutors revealed that the tycoon may be offered a plea deal in return for an admission of guilt. Each count carries a potential sentence of 30 days in jail and a year of probation.
Michael Picaretta, Sir Philip’s attorney, also asked for clarity around the definition of “intent”, signalling that the defence team may argue that he never meant to “insult or provoke” Ms Surridge.
Speaking after police launched their investigation, Ms Surridge accused Sir Philip of “hiding behind expensive lawyers”, and said “You can have all the money in the world but you can’t behave the way he did and expect to just walk away.”
Sir Philip has hired a string of highprofile attorneys to defend the case including La-based lawyer Alan Jackson, who succeeded in getting sexual assault charges dropped against the actor Kevin Spacey in July.
The case has already been held up twice after Sir Philip’s legal team requested a delay. His attorneys have also asked for more time to interview each
of the witnesses ahead of a possible trial. Another court date has been set for Oct 23.
Since the charges were announced, more spa employees have come forward to accuse the Topshop tycoon of inappropriate behaviour. In July, Jennifer Mcamis, a 30-year-old fitness instructor, claimed she had to wear extra layers of clothing because Sir Philip was so “grabby”.
At least one more worker has also made official complaints about his behaviour, it is understood. In recent weeks a number of millionaire residents have demanded that Sir Philip, who still owns a luxury nine-bedroom home on the property, is permanently banned from entering the spa and gym.
It comes after Ms Surridge told The Telegraph that Sir Philip first groped her in 2016, while she was working as a Pilates instructor at Canyon Ranch, a luxury spa in the outskirts of Tucson.
“I felt like just a piece of meat there at his disposal,” she said. “It feels completely sexual in nature. And the way – the noises, and the ‘Oh, you naughty girl’. Like – ugh – I can hear him saying it right now.”
A witness told The Telegraph that she remembered Sir Philip “fondling” Ms Surridge’s bottom repeatedly as if “testing a piece of fruit”.
Ms Surridge was worried about confronting a “high roller” at the resort but was reassured by managers that the billionaire had been warned not to do it again. But two years later Sir Philip groped her during another class, she said. She then reported him to police.
It comes after three women in Britain who made complaints against Sir Philip signed non-disclosure agreements (NDAS) and were paid huge sums to keep silent.
The allegations could only be reported after Sir Philip dropped an injunction against this newspaper.
The apparent disparity for alleged victims in the UK and the US has led for calls for the Government to crack down on the misuse of NDAS.
Katie Surridge, a Pilates instructor, arrives at court in Tucson for the first hearing in the case against Sir Philip Green, the Topshop billionaire, who has been charged with four counts of assault at a luxury spa resort. Sir Philip did not appear at the hearing