Carshalton lawyer given community sentence after 'trying it on' with passenger
An international lawyer has avoided jail after he groped a young woman on a long-distance bus through Cumbria.
Hugh Wotherspoon, 54, was sentenced to a community order for 36 hours and will have to attend a sex offenders programme after being found guilty of sexual assault.
Carlisle Crown Court heard last month how married father Hugh Wotherspoon, 54, had spent half an hour with his hands between his victim's legs as he returned from the Edinburgh Festival last year.
Judge Peter Hughes QC described it as "a very worrying case" and told Wotherspooon he had considered a conditional discharge but had become "more concerned" the more he heard Wotherspoon giving evidence.
He said: "I find it remarkable that a man of his age should have behaved in that way on a night bus from Edinburgh to London."
Wotherspoon, of Dalmeny Road, Carshalton, confessed he had "tried it on" with the German-born woman but denied sexually assaulting her against her will.
He told the court that despite the woman removing his hand from her thigh once, he "did not have any reason to believe that another touch would be unwelcome".
Wotherspoon, who specialises in patent law applications from his firm's offices in London, Munich and New York, was arrested at Tebay Services on the M6 last August after the victim alerted the driver.
The victim, who can not be named for legal reasons, told the jury: "I was thinking of hitting him or screaming, but you never know how people will react."
In his defence, Wotherspoon told the court that after sitting for so long next to the woman in the bus's cramped seats it seemed natural to stroke her thigh.
He said: "I put my hand on her knee. I thought she might like it. It just seemed right. It didn't seem wrong or terrible in that situation."
"At no time during the entire two and a half hours that we were sitting in extremely intimate contact did she move away."
Wotherspoon's barrister Madeleine Wolfe said that as a result of the verdict Wotherspoon faced "a real likelihood that he is going to lose his profession and his work".