A blind ex-Tory peer accused of sexual assault has said he uses touch “to get a sense” of people if he feels vulnerable.
Lord Chris Holmes of Richmond, 48, is alleged to have grabbed a beauty therapist’s bottom and asked if she did “extras” towards the end of a treatment at a five-star London hotel.
The nine-time Paralympic swimming gold medallist, who was formerly with the Conservatives, asked to see what she looked like by touching her, which the woman allowed, before groping her, Southwark Crown Court was told.
Holmes denies one count of sexual assault.
When she told him she was a professional and tried to back away from him, he allegedly asked her: “Are you sure you’ve never done it?”
Lord Holmes said he used the hotel because it had a record for catering for blind people and admitted he asked to touch the masseuse.
He denied that it was sexually motivated.
The court heard in a previous massage session, another therapist at the same hotel did not allow him to touch her face.
He said it “doesn’t matter what the massage therapist looks like”.
He went on: “I wasn’t asking to touch her to see if she was male or female, tall, short, fat or thin – it’s just to get the sense of another person and see what she looks like.
“I understand how difficult it is to imagine what it must be like to have no sight whatsoever, because up until I was 14 I couldn’t have any indication of what that would be like, but that really is my world.
“My world would stop here (in front of me) if I couldn’t contact that external world that you can get in the blink of an eye, and I try and use everything I’ve still got to try and construct that world.
“So, through sound, smells, and, yes, touch, but touch as a means of being able to construct that world, touching objects, and, yes, touching people every single day.”
He said he wanted to get a “sense” of the person when he felt vulnerable, lying on his back with a stranger in the room.
Holmes said he feels vulnerable with strangers and he is often photographed without his knowledge by people.
The trial continues.