Friend of John Leslie ‘apologised over his behaviour after alleged assault’

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A friend of John Leslie apologised over his behaviour after he allegedly sexually assaulted a woman at a Christmas party, a court has heard.

The companion, who had attended the gathering in London’s West End more than a decade ago, said the former Blue Peter presenter sometimes got “over-excited” and that it had been a long time since he had been at a party like that, his trial was told.

Leslie is accused of making a “solid grab” of both of the complainant’s breasts at the party in December 2008.

On the second day of his trial at Southwark Crown Court, a friend of the complainant who also attended the party said she did not recall seeing the alleged incident, but described what she remembered of “the aftermath”.

She told the court: “I can’t be exactly sure what I saw.

“What I certainly heard was the aftermath of what happened and saw the shock and heard the shock from (the complainant).

“John’s demeanour did not change. He was still very excitable and very happy to be there, but there seemed to be a sudden shift of atmosphere from (the complainant). And there was almost disbelief and sort of a galled feeling.”

John Leslie
Former Blue Peter presenter John Leslie, 55, with his father Lesley Stott, leaving Southwark Crown Court in London (Luciana Guerra/PA)

The witness said a woman who attended the party with Leslie, who she believed might have been an old friend, had later approached her towards the end of the evening and apologised for his behaviour.

The witness told the jury: “The gist was: ‘Sorry about John, he’s very excited to be here, it’s been a long time since he has been to a party like this and sometimes he just gets over-excited and goes over the top.”

The witness said she thinks her response was to placate the companion “in an ‘I’m sure it’s OK’ kind of way, rather than challenging” her.

The complainant alleges Leslie grabbed her breasts and laughed immediately after they shook hands, before walking away without saying anything – and has described to the jury how she was left feeling shocked.

Another witness who was at the party said the complainant had told her Leslie had touched her breasts.

Giving evidence, she said: “She was obviously in shock. I was shocked.”

But the woman claimed Leslie had “not been unknown to touch people inappropriately”, adding: “If someone at a party squeezed your bottom it was more than likely to be John Leslie.”

Asked if she was saying Leslie had squeezed her bottom, the witness said: “On occasion, yes, he has.”

In a statement the witness had given to police, part of which was read out in court, she said she had been shocked by the breast-touching allegation but did not find it “entirely surprising” as she found Leslie to be a “tactile person who can be inappropriate”.

The court has heard how Leslie – who had also hosted This Morning – had a “spectacular fall from grace” and by 2008 was known as a “disgraced former celebrity” after a series of “scurrilous allegations” against him.

The jury has heard how separate sex charges against him were dropped in 2003.

Leslie, 55, who has an address in Edinburgh, denies sexual assault by intentionally touching the woman without her consent on December 5 2008.

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