Dave Lee Travis walks free over groping of woman on Mrs Merton Show

Dave Lee Travis
Dave Lee Travis

Disgraced Dave Lee Travis walked free from court today despite being found guilty of groping a young researcher behind the scenes at The Mrs Merton Show.

The ex-Top Of The Pops presenter was spared an immediate jail term today but was sentenced to three months in prison suspended for two years by Judge Anthony Leonard QC.

London’s Southwark Crown Court heard Travis got a “weird sexual thrill” when he indecently assaulted the woman, who is now a successful TV personality, in 1995.

The DJ cornered the woman in the corridor of a BBC television studio where she was smoking and commented on her “poor little lungs” before squeezing her breasts for 10 to 15 seconds.

Sentencing 69-year-old Travis, Judge Leonard said: “It was an intentional and unpleasant sexual assault.

“You took advantage of a young woman in a vulnerable position whose job it was to look after you that day.”

Grey-haired Travis glanced at the floor and replied “Thank you, your honour” after the judge passed sentence.

Marianne, Travis’s wife of more than 40 years, hugged a friend in the public gallery after the judge delivered his sentence.

Addressing Travis, Judge Leonard said the DJ’s offence was of a “different order” to other high profile convictions under Operation Yewtree.

He said: “Whilst the commission of any indecent assault is serious and reprehensible, the scale and nature of the offences of which Stuart Hall and other defendants who have been successfully prosecuted under Operation Yewtree and have been sentenced are of a different order of magnitude to the single offence of which you have been convicted.”

Judge Leonard said Travis “towered” over his diminutive victim, and thought he could get away with the attack because he was a TV star.

The judge said: “In her victim impact statement, she describes herself as a naive and trusting 22- year-old. She was subjected to an unprovoked and terrifying assault and considers herself lucky to be psychologically robust enough to deal with the distress, supported by family and friends.

“Using humour has been for her a defence mechanism.

“Giving evidence about these events has been painful for her. When you gave evidence you described what she was alleging took place as ‘a nasty thing to do’.

“You are right in your assessment - it was a nasty thing to do, but it was more than that.

“It was an intentional and unpleasant sexual assault. You took advantage of a young woman in a vulnerable position whose job it was to look after you that day.

“I judge that you believed she would not make a fuss about what you did to her. You were right about that, too.

“She made no complaint until she heard you describe the witnesses in your previous trial as ‘liars’. That encouraged her to come forward.”

Travis, who became a household name in the 1970s, was found not guilty on a second indecent assault charge and the jury was discharged after it was unable to agree a verdict on a count of sexual assault.

He faced a retrial after jurors failed to reach verdicts on those two charges earlier this year. He was cleared of 12 counts of indecent assault at his original trial in February.

Travis was first arrested in October 2012 under Operation Yewtree, Scotland Yard’s investigation into historic sexual abuse in the wake of allegations against the late DJ Jimmy Savile.

During the trial, Travis’s victim told the court the DJ had an “intense stare” as he groped her and the incident was “unbelievably weird”.

She said she “froze” as she was pinned against the wall by Travis before he let go of her breasts after 10-15 seconds.

The victim said she reported the incident - which she described as a “squeezing grope” - to a senior producer.

She told the court: “I said ‘Oh my God, Dave Lee Travis just touched my tits’.”

“It was absolutely the weirdest thing that happened in my life.”

The woman said she did not make an official complaint or contact police at the time because she was young and did not want to make a “fuss”.

She said a colleague later told her that Travis was known as an “octopus” because “he’s got hands that go everywhere”.

The woman, who gave evidence without a screen in view of Travis in the dock, said she had since spoken in public about the assault.

Comedian Dave Gorman, who was a writer on The Mrs Merton Show, said he remembered hearing about the incident and that it was “aggressive” and not a Carry On-style “playful” act.

“My recollection was everyone in the team would have known,” he said.

“This was office gossip to some extent.”

He added: “I recall discussions and questions about whether it had been a sort of ‘Carry On film wahey’, which might be playful, albeit ill-judged, or whether it was aggressive.

“My recollection was it was aggressive.”

During the trial, Travis, of Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, described the accusation as a “nasty act” and stressed that if he did accidentally touch anyone on the breast, he did not recall it.

In a police interview played to the court, Travis said he did not remember the victim but it was “possible” he had urged her not to smoke.

“I like to get on with people,” he said.

“I don’t like to leave people with a sour taste in their mouth. I suspect grabbing someone’s breasts for 15 seconds would leave a sour taste in their mouth.

“What would this be saying to her, ‘Your breasts are going to fall off if you smoke’?”

Moments before the judge arrived in court for the sentencing, Travis demanded that Sunday Times journalist Camilla Long move from her seat in the public gallery behind the dock.

Ms Long wrote an article for the newspaper in 2012 in which she claimed she had been groped by the DJ during an interview.

After tapping on the glass-walled dock, Travis said: “You’re making me uncomfortable. Get where you should be - in the press gallery.”

When Ms Long replied that there were no seats available, Travis turned to the packed press gallery and said: “Anybody want to give her a seat?”

The exchange was interrupted when the judge entered the courtroom.

Today Travis’s victim told of her horror at the attack.

In a victim impact statement read out at Southwark Crown Court, she said: “I was a naive and trusting 22 year-old when I was subjected to an unprovoked and terrifying physical assault at my place of work.

“I was too paralysed with fear to confront my assailant but immediately told my boss.

“I feel very lucky, I was psychologically robust enough to deal with the distress, thanks largely to the support of my friends and colleagues.

“I have coped with the event by using humour as a defence mechanism. But remembering the incident still takes me back to feeling like a scared, vulnerable young woman.

“Being called a liar and fantasist and being forced to relive the events of the past has been painful.

“I was particularly horrified at the defendant’s allegations that desire for attention or financial greed motivated me to come forward.

“I have sought to preserve my anonymity and have no intention of claiming compensation now or in the future. I simply wanted to tell the truth and was prepared to go through this unpleasant process to that end.

“I am grateful I have always been believed by those who know me, and the members of the jury also appreciated I was telling the truth.”