Woman says ‘fight finally done’ after judge rules she was assaulted by therapist

A woman has said her “fight is finally done” after a High Court judge ruled she was assaulted by a therapist who used “penile penetration” during a session.

Ella Janneh, 37, sued therapist Michael Lousada for personal injury and negligence after claiming he penetrated her without her consent during a session at his clinic in Belsize Park, London, in August 2016.

On Wednesday, Mr Justice Jeremy Baker ordered Mr Lousada, who denied the allegations, to pay Ms Janneh at least £217,000 in damages after ruling the session caused her to suffer a panic attack, meaning she “entirely lacked capacity” to consent to what took place.

Ms Janneh, who has waived her right to anonymity, pursued a civil claim against Mr Lousada, 57, after the Crown Prosecution Service said it would not issue criminal charges in 2018.

Criminal and civil cases require different standards of proof, with criminal prosecutions requiring a higher standard of “beyond reasonable doubt”, while civil cases can be ruled upon on “the balance of probabilities”.

The court heard Ms Janneh needed to prove that it was more likely than not that she did not give consent to the sexual activity, rather than prove that Mr Lousada did not reasonably believe that she did not consent.

Speaking to the PA news agency outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London following the judgment, Ms Janneh said: “I feel happy, I feel proud of myself, I feel exhausted, I feel bitter.”

Ella Janneh (right) with her solicitor, Catriona Rubens (Lucy North/PA)
Ella Janneh, right, with her solicitor Catriona Rubens (Lucy North/PA)

“I have finally tied up all ends, and this fight is finally done,” she added.

A trial earlier this year heard that Ms Janneh visited Mr Lousada after suffering panic attacks during consensual sex, which she believed stemmed from abuse as a child.

During the session, Mr Lousada – who has appeared as a guest on the TV show This Morning – penetrated her with his fingers and his penis, which he told the court was a “therapeutic technique”.

He also claimed that he repeatedly received “clear verbal consent” for his actions.

Ms Janneh told the court that the incident caused her to suffer a panic attack, leaving her unable to communicate and “incapable of providing valid and informed consent” as a result.

In court documents, she also claimed that Mr Lousada told her “his penis was, ‘like a laser beam’ and that it could ‘burn up trauma’, and that he should use his penis to absorb the trauma”.

In his ruling, Mr Justice Jeremy Baker said: “I have no doubt that by that time, the claimant was experiencing symptoms of a full-blown dissociative panic attack and that when the defendant suggested that he should use his penis energetically to absorb the trauma, the claimant entirely lacked capacity to agree to this taking place.”

Ms Janneh said on Wednesday that she “wanted to die” following the session.

She said: “Something for me initially and very early on was, I walked out of his clinic that day and wanted to die.

“I knew that I had done a lot of therapy leading up to going to see him, as a child abuse survivor I had done a lot of work on being able to talk about my child abuse and come to some type of terms with it, and I still wanted to die because of what he did to me.

Therapist Michael Lousada leaves the Royal Courts of Justice in London
Therapist Michael Lousada leaves the Royal Courts of Justice in London (Jonathan Brady/PA)

She continued: “I think also just a refusal. I couldn’t take it, I couldn’t stomach it. I just thought ‘how is this man able to have done what he did and continue on with his life and continue his practice, to have access to people?’ I couldn’t accept it.”

Catriona Rubens, Ms Janneh’s solicitor for law firm Leigh Day, said: “Anyone can call themselves a therapist or counsellor in the UK.

“Anyone can create a glossy website with terms like they are trauma-informed or that they help support survivors of sexual abuse, and there is no way formally to hold them accountable unless they choose to voluntarily adhere to a professional body and a code of conduct.

“That just isn’t good enough. There needs to be proper regulation of therapists and of counsellors. These people treat vulnerable individuals like Ella.

“Ella was a survivor of child sexual abuse coming to see Mike Lousada with specific psychological and physical problems.

“She was in a vulnerable position and he was in a position of power over her and the fact that there is no regulation over what happened to her during her session is shameful for all of us and that needs to change.”

Ms Janneh, who reported the incident to police the day after it occurred, also said she was “failed” by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for not bringing criminal charges.

A CPS spokesperson said: “Criminal and civil cases require different standards of proof.

“In criminal cases, we must prove beyond reasonable doubt that an individual is guilty and following a careful review of the evidence in this case, we concluded there was not a realistic prospect of conviction – a decision later supported by two independent reviews.”