A SPORTS therapist from Falmouth faces the possibility of prison after being found guilty on three charges of sexually assaulting his female clients.
Clifford Pill, of Oakland Park, who turned 67 on Monday, had denied inappropriately touching women he was supposed to be treating. However, a jury at Truro Crown Court took just over an hour to find him guilty of all charges, at the end of a four-day trial.
During cross examination, Pill responded to accusations that he touched the breasts of the three women in 2011 and 2012 by saying that he had followed the same protocols for 20 years and touching any woman’s breasts or nipples was “absolutely taboo.”
Describing the first time he was contacted by the police regarding the allegations, he said: “I felt sick to my stomach.”
He added: “I could have taken the easy way out and pleaded guilty, but I’m not guilty.
“At the end of the day I know in my own heart that I have done nothing wrong. I kept to the protocols I kept to for 20 years – that I kept to right until I finished work.”
Pill, a former gymnastics and judo teacher who trained as a sports therapist in the mid-90s before setting up his business, called The Working Body, described himself as “passionate” about the lymphatic system.
He said that he carried out lymphatic massage, which involves moving fluid from the body to lymph nodes in the armpit.
He told the court that the closest he would come to a woman’s breasts would be in moving from the rib cage at the side of the body, over the top of the bra strap, to the lymph nodes. He said that while doing this he would talk to women about the importance of checking their breasts for various signs including lumps and discolouration, but that he would never touch their breasts himself.
Pill answered all questions about the three women with reference to his handwritten notes made at the time he was treating them, as he said he did not remember any of the treatments.
Questioned by the counsel for the defence, Fern Russell, about calling one of the women back after the alleged assault “for a hug”, Pill said: “According to her notes she had been a family friend for quite some time, but I don’t remember that at all.
“It’s highly possible I called her back for a hug.
“I would do it as a token of friendship, just to say ‘nice to see you again’.”
Regarding another client, when asked why he gave her a discount following one session, he said it was because she was sent to him by her employer, who regularly referred his employees. He said he did not recall saying to her “don’t tell anyone” when he gave her the discount, but that he would have said that “just to let her know that she’d got a discount,” and “because it would be bad for business if word gets around I’m giving discounts.”
Following the verdict, Judge Graham Cottle said: “I will, between now and the time you return to be sentenced, allow you to have bail; you must understand this is not to be taken by you as meaning you won't receive a custodial sentence.”
A pre-sentence report will be prepared, which is likely to consider Pill's age and previous good character, along with the fact that both he and his wife have health issues. He was told he would have to sign onto the sex offenders’ register, and sentencing is expected to take place at Exeter Crown Court next month.