Optician, 64, sent customer ‘distressing’ unsolicited text after mistaking yoga pose for ‘flirting’

John Snelgrove has been suspended after he mistook a female patient practicing yoga moves in his store for flirting. (Solent)
John Snelgrove has been suspended for 'extremely troubling conduct'. (Solent)

An optician has been suspended for "extremely troubling conduct" after he sent a text message to a female patient he thought was flirting with him.

John Snelgrove, 64, used the woman's personal data to send her a “distressing” unsolicited text after she tilted her head down and bent forward when trying on her new glasses to make sure they stayed on when she was doing yoga.

He claimed he believed the patient, who visited his store in April 2021, was carrying out a move he thought was called 'dirty dog' and was wiggling her backside in a “provocative” way to “get my interest”.

Snelgrove, of St Albans, Hertfordshire, said that the woman’s skirt rode up and “left little to the imagination”.

That evening he texted the unnamed healthcare professional: "Forgive me for asking, I don't want to embarrass me or you at our next meeting when you collect your specs.

"If your interested I am also would you like to take this further. Regards John Snelgrove."

The woman replied "no thank you" and Snelgrove said "Ok thanks... I hope you don't mind me asking."

Two days later the woman, named only as 'Patient A', had to make an “uneasy” return to his shop, Enhanced Optical Services, to collect her glasses, and then complained.

Snelgrove, who did not apologise to her, later said he "realised that he had mistakenly taken Patient A's behaviour as an invitation for him to approach her and that as a man of advancing years he was taken aback and flattered by his mistaken belief Patient A was interested in him”.

Snelgrove has been suspended for six months following a General Optical Council (GOC) tribunal.

The tribunal heard Patient A visited his store to buy two pairs of glasses then returned days later to try one pair on when they were ready to collect.

The patient came into Enhanced Optical Services in St Albans to buy glasses. (Google)
The patient came into Enhanced Optical Services in St Albans to buy glasses. (Google)

A tribunal report said: "She said she had told Snelgrove that she wanted to check if the frames would remain on when she engaged in sport and yoga and therefore tested them out by tilting her head forward in a repetitive motion and inclining or ‘inverting’ her body.”

But Snelgrove, who qualified in 1979, claimed on her previous visits she had been “flirtatious and over friendly” as he chatted to her about how he was planning to “stay at home alone drinking Jack Daniel’s”.

Snelgrove alleged the woman, when trying on glasses, “bent over from the waist vigorously shaking her head in many different directions while rotating her body in what he considered to be a provocative manner”…

"He described Patient A’s movements as 'provocative' and 'lewd'. He said he had never seen anything like it in all his years and had been taken aback and stunned.”

The tribunal heard that Patient A “strongly denied” Snelgrove's interpretation of events and ruled it happened as she described.

She was "quite shocked by what had happened and uncomfortable that her personal data had been used for non-business purposes" and said at the next appointment "I tried not to make eye contact or have any further discussion on this topic”.

Tribunal chair Sara Fenoughty said: “[Snelgrove] was an experienced professional and should have been well aware that what he was doing was an unacceptable breach of professional boundaries.

"He continued to hold Patient A in some way responsible for his own misconduct.

"He failed to show any meaningful understanding of how distressing and unnerving his actions would have been for Patient A."