Woman wins £200,000 damages over alleged sexual assaults by therapist

A woman who claimed she was raped by a therapist who said his penis was “like a laser beam” has been awarded more than £200,000 in damages after suing him over alleged assaults.

Ella Janneh brought a High Court claim against Michael Lousada over a therapy session involving “penetration” at his clinic in Belsize Park, London, in August 2016.

Lawyers for Ms Janneh, who has waived her right to anonymity, told a civil trial in London earlier this year that she suffered a panic attack during the session and “did not consent to the sexual acts”.

Mr Lousada, who has appeared as a guest on the TV show This Morning, denied the allegations, claiming that the sexual activity was consensual and part of “legitimate” therapeutic activity.

Ms Janneh launched the civil claim against Mr Lousada for personal injury and negligence after the Crown Prosecution Service said it would not pursue criminal charges in 2018.

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

The court heard Ms Janneh only 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.

In his judgment on Wednesday, Mr Justice Jeremy Baker said: “I am sure that as a result of the defendant having instructed the claimant to regress into her childhood persona as an abused child, and thereafter touching her in the manner in which he did during the course of the third session, caused the claimant to become dissociative.

“Such that when the defendant suggested that he would use his penis to absorb the trauma, the defendant not having asked for consent to penetrate her with his fingers, the claimant lacked capacity to consent to being penetrated with his penis.

“Thus, the claimant has established her primary ground of trespass to the person, namely battery.”

The judge also ruled that Ms Janneh should be paid at least £217,000 in damages.

Following the ruling, Ms Janneh said in a statement: “I dedicate this to every victim who was turned away by the police, the CPS, their caregivers or their loved ones.

“Regardless of this verdict, I hope that in coming out publicly that I can encourage other victims to speak their truth no matter what. I’m proud of what I have done and I will not stop fighting for justice.”

The trial heard that Ms Janneh, 37, first visited Mr Lousada in 2011 and again in 2012 after suffering panic symptoms during consensual sex, which she believed stemmed from abuse as a child.

No sexual activity took place at that time.

Ms Janneh’s barrister, Nina Ross, said she returned in 2016 for a “body work” session costing £750 which she believed was similar to a physiotherapy session, coupled with talking therapy.

Giving evidence in court, Ms Janneh said she “never, ever, ever would have asked him (Mr Lousada) to penetrate me” during the session.

In court documents, she said 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”.

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

She claimed 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 his evidence, Mr Lousada admitted penetration occurred but said he repeatedly received “clear verbal consent” for his actions.

He also acknowledged referring to his penis as a laser, claiming that Ms Janneh “reported feeling like dark energy was being released”.

The penile penetration lasted about 10 minutes and he did not use a condom, the court was told, but Mr Lousada said that Ms Janneh appeared “lucid” throughout and repeatedly gave consent.

Mr Lousada, who now lives in Germany, said that following the session, he recorded in his notes that he believed Ms Janneh “left feeling empowered and optimistic” and “was not obviously agitated or upset at that stage”.

His barrister, David Boyle, told the court in written submissions that while Mr Lousada’s activities “may not align with societal norms”, his work was a “legitimate activity” and included a “range of activities” including workshops, talking therapy and massages, and had engaged in penile penetration with “approximately 30 to 40 clients”.

But Mr Justice Jeremy Baker said he had “no doubt” Ms Janneh was suffering a “full-blown dissociative panic attack” and that she “entirely lacked capacity” to consent to what took place.

He said that while her symptoms “would have been obvious”, Mr Lousada “chose to ignore them” which was “motivated by the defendant’s confidence in his own ability to heal women”.

The judge continued: “Having listened with care to the defendant giving evidence in this case, I am satisfied that the scale of his confidence in his own abilities was such that his perception of reality became clouded by his sense of self-worth.”

He added it was “a matter which affected not only what the defendant perceived and did during his sessions with the claimant, but also the defendant’s recollection of what had taken place, both in his written notes and in his subsequent interviews with the police, and also in his evidence in this case”.