A middle-aged man and woman who had drunken, adulterous sex outside one of London’s busiest railway stations during the evening rush hour have received very different punishments after being caught by police.
In a series of events which have left those interested in men’s rights’ fuming, the man involved has had his name dragged through the public domain, while the woman has escaped with her anonymity intact and no blemish to her reputation.
The couple – both highly-paid lawyers – went out for lunch in August 2015. They took on a lot of alcohol and, rather extraordinarily, ended up in a steamy clinch outside Waterloo station as commuters walked past. Witnesses said they were locked in a passionate embrace for at least 10 minutes.
Police arrived. The woman was allegedly found with her knickers around her ankles.
Both parties initially admitted outraging public decency and were arrested and taken away to sober up in the cells. Both subsequently accepted a caution – where a suspect admits a criminal offence and receives a police warning.
Yet six weeks later, the woman claimed that she could not remember the incident, so must have been too drunk to consent to sex.
Under UK law, as the alleged victim of a sexual offence, she was automatically granted lifetime anonymity.
She then applied to overturn her initial admission to police – made the morning after her arrest and thus, presumably, when she had had several hours to sober up.
This week the Metropolitan Police confirmed that the woman’s caution had been “expunged”.
Great for her, but now consider what happened to the man. His story is the exact opposite.
He has been named publicly as husband and father-of-three Graeme Stening, 53. His place of work is also known – he is a managing partner at Doughty Hanson, the fund managers.
And he had to wait eight months while police investigated the woman’s claims against him.
Initially, police decided there was insufficient evidence to bring a prosecution for sexual assault against him but the woman appealed against this.
Mr Stening had denied outraging public decency, which could have led to the woman being identified at his trial, but he eventually accepted a police caution.
Amarjit Bhachu, Mr Stening’s lawyer, said last year that he hoped police would investigate the woman – a senior barrister – for allegedly making up the claim.
“It was apparent from the outset that the complainant’s motive was to obtain anonymity,” he said.
“Despite the police taking the decision not to take any further action, the complainant has achieved exactly what she wanted by taking this calculated course of action.”
The woman’s solicitor said last year that the suggestion that she had deliberately made a false allegation of sexual assault was “false and highly damaging”.
Now that police have absolved her, she is unlikely to face professional disciplinary proceedings.
Yet Mr Stening is reported to have referred himself to the Solicitors Regulation Authority, which could lead to him being disciplined.
One legal source told the Times of London that they seriously questioned how a highly qualified woman barrister could successfully argue that although she had admitted wrongdoing to the police the morning after being caught in the tryst, she was more likely to be telling the truth six weeks later when she claimed to have no recollection of the incident.
It’s a very good point, and one on which Graeme Stening must reflect regularly.