A WEDDING guest who walked free after molesting a sleeping woman while his wife was on the other side of the bed has been jailed after an appeal.
Joe Holtham, 33, had originally been given a suspended sentence by a judge at Gloucester Crown Court.
Joe Holtham, pictured with his wife Sarah, sexually assaulted a woman he was sharing a bed with
However, three appeal judges have quashed that suspended sentence and imposed a prison sentence of three years and six months, after Solicitor General Lucy Frazer mounted a challenge.
Holtham was sharing a room with his wife Sarah and three others at the Hunters Hall hotel near Tetbury, Gloucestershire, because one of the couples couldn't find their room key.
The consultant from Arden, Warwickshire, went to bed with his wife to his right, another woman to his left and a third woman on the far side.
The third woman's partner was sleeping on the floor, Gloucester Crown Court was told.
Holtham denied groping the woman next to him as she slept, insisting he only touched her when he put his hand on her bottom thinking she was his wife.
A jury, however, found him guilty of assaulting the woman.
Prosecutor Michael Hall told the court the Holthams were guests at a wedding in Tetbury, together with the other couple and the alleged victim.
That night, he said the couple could not find their room key and that meant the victim was also locked out of her room because she had left her key in theirs.
It was agreed they would all share the Holthams’ room.
Of the moment the complaint realised she was being assaulted in the night, Mr Hall said: "She says she froze. It took her a moment or two to come round - obviously, all the parties had been drinking.
"She lay there still pretending to be asleep in the hope it would stop. But what happened next was that she found her wrap-around dress was being undone.
"She had it tied at her right hip. She was lying on her left side. She felt her dress being undone.
"She became aware that the defendant's wife had woken up and there was some conversation between them, pillow talk in hushed tones."
Mr Hall said the woman lay still until she believed Mr Holtham had gone back to sleep.
She then got up, went to the bathroom, then lay on the floor.
At one stage Mr Holtham sat up and offered her his place in the bed, saying he would get on the floor, but she refused.
The woman left the hotel without having breakfast after retrieving her room key and then went to her mum’s house and told her what had happened, Mr Hall said.
"She told her mother that she had been sexually assaulted by Joe Holtham," he said.
Later, on returning home to London, the victim went with a friend to Bishopsgate police station where the woman reported the incident.
During an interview with Gloucestershire Police, Holtham said he may have put his hand accidentally on the woman's bottom but that would have been because he was used to his wife sleeping on that side of him.
At one point he tried to wake her and he was moving around a lot on the bed and saying he was "really hot", she said.
When she had left the hotel room he text her saying: "Would you mind chatting when we get a moment to ourselves? Sorry."
She said she received two other texts from him asking if she was okay and why she was blanking him and he also tried to phone her once.
She had not responded to the messages and had not spoken to him since the incident, she added.
Giving evidence, Holtham told the jury he runs his own executive recruitment business.
He said he did not do any of the things the woman had alleged but he did “feel her bottom” - adding that his wife normally slept on that side of him at home.
He said: "I don't know how long I did it for but I actually stopped myself when I realised who it was. I thought it was Sarah.
"I told my wife about it in the morning and I sent the woman a text saying sorry."
He added that the bottom touching had happened when "I was drunk and it was dark."
"I touched her bum - over her underwear - but then I came around and stopped myself from doing it," he added.
He denied that he and his wife had taken cocaine that night.
The jury returned majority guilty verdicts on two counts of penetration.
The recruitment consultant has been jailed
The group was staying at Hunters Hall in Gloucestershire