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Thursday, 26 May 2022 – A British Army corporal accused of groping a junior female soldier and ‘pestering’ her for naked photos told a court that it was ‘banter’.
Corporal Phillip Marshall-Nichols allegedly grabbed the female Private’s breasts after she had asked for his help on a computer in Colchester. He is also accused of ‘grinding’ his groin into her bottom as he was leaving a room after making a cup of tea.
The Army corporal of 16 Medical Regiment reportedly denied two counts of sexual assault. But claimed that messages on WhatsApp and Snapchat of camera emojis and questions marks were ‘banter’ instead of requests for naked photos.
Cpl Marshall-Nichol also said the messages were actually innocent requests for pictures of model figurines that the female soldier likes to make.
Bulford Military Court in Wiltshire, heard that Cpl Marshall-Nichols and the woman had a purely professional relationship in the year they knew each while stationed at an Army barracks in Colchester, Essex.
The alleged victim previously told the court she had been talking to a male soldier when Cpl Marshall-Nichols paused behind her and ‘grinded’ his penis into her bottom as he left the room.
The woman said: ‘I was in the break room with [another private]. Cpl Marshall-Nichols was making a brew. At one point he moved to leave the room, and as he passed me he stopped and grinded his d**k into my a**e, left to right.
‘He didn’t say anything and it didn’t go on for long, but I could feel his penis.’
The other soldier in the room at the time told the court he saw a look of shock cross his friend’s face as Cpl Marshall-Nichols stopped behind her.
The former private, who has since left the military, said: ‘I couldn’t see how close they were but by her facial expression she did not like it […] It just happened out of the blue and went on for a couple of seconds.
‘Me and [the female soldier] went out for a cigarette afterwards and she explained what had happened.’
She said he then sent messages on Snapchat and WhatsApp asking for naked photos of her after group PT (physical training) sessions.
The woman said: ‘He was asking for pictures while I was in the shower. I just said, “No”.’
When she refused she said he branded her a ‘spoilsport’ and the female soldier also ‘blocked him on Snapchat’.
Cpl Marshall-Nichols today denied his messages to the young female private were requests for naked photos and argues they were simply ‘banter’ and ‘a laugh’.
Cross-examining him, prosecutor Commander Peter Barker said: ‘You sent two emojis – a camera with flash and one without […] that is a request for photos.
‘Her response is: “No”. A flat refusal. You respond immediately, saying: “Spoilsport lol” and the crying laughter emoji.
‘You are pestering one of your subordinates for a picture in the shower.
‘You are calling her a spoilsport. You are disappointed and upset that she’s not sending a photo, aren’t you?’
Cpl Marshall-Nichols responded saying: ‘No – it’s banter, sir.
‘We were having a laugh. With all due respect, and I didn’t mean to upset anyone […] but that is why I sent a laughing face – as a joke.’
He was then quizzed on an alleged incident when the Private went into work to update her ‘objectives’ on a computer system before an upcoming exercise, and asked for assistance from Cpl Marshall-Nichols.
Cdr Barker continued: ‘You took this opportunity [when the female soldier asked for help on the computer] to try your luck, didn’t you? You took the opportunity for a quick grope and touched her breasts just like she said, didn’t you?’
‘No, sir,’ replied Cpl Marshall-Nichols.
Denying the other incident he added: ‘I certainly didn’t [grind myself into the female soldier]. I didn’t [fancy her].’
When questioned by judge advocate Jane England on what his messages of the camera emojis on WhatsApp referred to, Cpl Marshall-Nichols replied: ‘At the time [the female soldier] was into resin.
‘It’s basically two mixtures of liquids that turn solid over time. She had told me about them and showed me her figures.
‘At the time [of the messages], I could have been requesting to see what she was doing with them.
‘It could have been about that […] but I can’t remember. She showed me pictures of her figures. It got me interested enough that I [wanted to] try and do it myself.’
Defending, Simon Perkins previously argued the alleged victim had ‘made up’ both claims of sexual assault which she reported in December 2020.
Mr. Perkins said: ‘The first time [the female soldier] mentioned [these allegations] was at a social gathering [when she was drunk].
‘These two alleged sexual assaults never happened. The sexual assault in the tea room never happened and for some reason you are making this up to get Cpl Marshall-Nichols in trouble.’
The trial continues.