Edinburgh city councillor denies taxi sex assault on woman after SNP fundraiser

A former SNP councillor sexually assaulted a colleague in the back of a taxi following a party fundraising event, a court heard.
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Lewis Ritchie, 38, is alleged to have pounced on the woman by forcing his tongue into her mouth as the pair travelled home after the SNP bash at the party’s clubrooms in Edinburgh city centre.

Ritchie is also said to have sexually assaulted and made sleazy comments a waitress at the cafe he owns in the city’s Leith area.

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The former nationalist councillor is alleged to have deliberately rubbed himself up against the woman while she worked shifts at the All Good Cafe on Easter Road.

Councillor Lewis Ritchie is on trial at Edinburgh Sheriff CourtCouncillor Lewis Ritchie is on trial at Edinburgh Sheriff Court
Councillor Lewis Ritchie is on trial at Edinburgh Sheriff Court

The alleged victim told a trial at Edinburgh Sheriff Court that on one occasion Ritchie left her bruised after slapping the her on the buttocks while the pair were alone in the back of the cafe.

She told the trial he would regularly make sexual comments towards her and also about female customers who were in the cafe when she worked there between June and October 2019.

He is also facing a further allegation of of climbing into the bed of a third alleged victim and repeatedly asking to cuddle her following the SNP conference at the SECC in Glasgow in October 2017.

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Ritchie, appearing under the name John Ritchie, denies all the charges against him and appeared for trial at Edinburgh Sheriff Court.

The first alleged victim gave her evidence from behind a screen and said she had been at a SNP function at the party’s clubrooms at the capital’s South St Andrews Street in April 2016.

She said she and Ritchie left the venue together and agreed to share a taxi as they were both going in the same direction.

She said Ritchie was “extremely drunk” and was “slurring his words” and when it came for him to get out of the vehicle he had asked her for a kiss.

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The woman, who is in her 50s, said she was “surprised” by the request and in response had given him “a kiss on the cheek”.

She said Ritchie, of the capital’s Leith, told her ‘no I want a proper kiss’ and then forced his tongue into the her mouth.

The woman said it was “a deeply unpleasant incident” and that she immediately asked him to leave the cab.

The trial also heard from the former cafe employee who said she started working for Ritchie in July 2019.

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She also gave evidence from behind a screen and told the court Ritchie would regularly squeeze past her on purpose and she was left feeling “very uncomfortable” by his attention towards her.

The woman said Ritchie would make sexual comments to her including asking how many men she had slept with and that he slapped her on the buttocks on two occasions.

She told the court the second alleged assault left her with a bruised buttock and when she confronted him about it he had “laughed in my face” and said he thought I would “find it funny”.

The woman, who is her 20s, added she “felt sexualised” by the encounters and had resigned from her position at the end of October 2019 before to going to the police two weeks later.

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The summary trial in front of Sheriff Fiona Tait was part-heard due to the lack of court time and was adjourned to later this year.

Ritchie resigned from the Scottish National Party in 2018 and is currently an independent councillor for the Leith area.

He denies sexually assaulting a woman by kissing her forcefully on the lips, inserting his tongue into her mouth without her consent within a taxi at Leith Walk, Edinburgh, between April 1 and 30, 2016.

Richie also denies making sexual remarks to a second woman and towards others in her presence, repeatedly touching her buttocks and slapping her buttocks to her injury between June 1 and October 31, 2019.

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And he has pled not guilty to a charge that he behaved in a threatening or abusive manner by entering a bedroom, repeatedly lifting a duvet and getting into bed with a woman while she was in a state of undress and repeatedly asking to cuddle her at an address in Glasgow on October 9, 2017.