A judge has slammed the Scarlet hotel in Mawgan Porth, Cornwall, for failing to tell police a woman had been sexually assaulted at the hotel spa by a member of staff.
The hotel, however, denied that it had attempted to cover up what it regarded was an "extremely seriously" incident and said it had fully co-operated with the police investigation.
Therapist Antonio Stampone (pictured), 39, admitted sexual assault and was given a suspended prison sentence at Truro Crown Court. The court heard how he began to breathe heavily during the woman's full-body treatment, and brushed against her exposed nipple. The client's hand, hanging off the edge of the massage table, momentarily touched his trousers and she felt his erect penis.
Stampone then began massaging her breast and, by reaching inside her disposable pants, rubbed her naked genitals. The woman grabbed his hand and demanded he stop.
The court was told she reported the incident to hotel management, and Stampone apologised and was sacked two days later. However, the hotel did not inform the police that a sexual offence had taken place. The offence came to light when the woman reported the crime herself.
Judge Simon Carr said: "I am deeply concerned by the way the Scarlet hotel chose to investigate these matters. It was improper not to report it to the police. It has all the hallmarks of a hotel trying to protect their reputation, rather than them protecting women using the facilities at this spa.
"I thought the days were gone when a company made a knee-jerk reaction to cover it up, rather than reporting it to the proper authorities. I do hope the hotel authorities will act appropriately in the future."
The four-silver-AA-star, Scarlet hotel is owned by sisters Debbie Wakefield, Emma Stratton and Rebecca Whittington, and operated by Red Hotels.
It was the woman's second massage by Stampone, who had only joined the hotel a couple of months before the assault. He had previously worked as a masseur for 11 years at top-end hotels in Italy and Singapore.
Following the court case, the Scarlet hotel released the following statement: "The safety of our guests is paramount and we are deeply sorry for the distress suffered by the lady involved.
"We took the incident involving a new therapist extremely seriously when the complaint was received and carried out a full investigation. We discussed the matter at length with the client and were seeking to understand how she wanted the complaint taken forward when the police became involved.
"We would never attempt to downplay or cover up an incident such as this and have co-operated fully with the police investigation."
Edward Bailey, mitigating for Stampone, said Stampone intended to leave the UK and return home to Italy, to care for his unwell mother and help his family in the wake of a devastating earthquake in the L'Aquila region. He said he also intended to give up professional massage and would instead get a job as a financial agent in his brother's insurance firm.
Bailey added: "That afternoon he [Stampone] succumbed momentarily to temptation and lust got the better of him. From the moment it happened, he was apologising. He has thrown away a career of some 11 years as a highly respected masseur."
Stampone was given a 12 months prison sentence, suspended for two years; ordered to pay £500 court costs; and will be the subject of a sexual harm prevention order.
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