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Jury Blames Sexual Assault on Oysters, Not Groper

James Whitemarsh, a former BBC producer, has been acquitted of sexual assault by the Southwark Crown Court after a jury accepted his claim that eating raw oysters left him without control of his actions, according to a Daily Mail report.

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Whitemarsh, 41, was charged with groping a female paramedic after friends called an ambulance for him when he began acting strangely while they were dining out.

The group was in London’s West End on Dec. 13 when Whitemarsh began swinging his arms and answering all questions with the word “honk.” In addition to drinking lager and white wine, he’d consumed both oysters and smoked salmon.

When ambulance arrived, Whitemarsh touched a female paramedic. “I felt his hand reach underneath and grab me,” she testified.  ”I could feel his fingers, so I would not call his touch soft. His hand was grabbing me as he groped.”

But it was the testimony of Professor Nicholas Birch that swayed the jury. The expert toxicologist and pharmacologist said the naturally occurring toxins filtered in the shellfish had not been properly removed before they were served to Whitemarsh.

It was unlikely that Whitemarsh knew what he was doing once he was in the ambulance and his actions were not under his “conscious control,” Birch testified. He also told the court it was also possible Whitmarsh could have been suffered from ‘scombroid food poisoning’ from a piece of salmon.

Oysters traditionally have been considered to be an aphrodisiac. Ed Cake, an oyster expert in the U.S. Gulf, says research has shown raw oysters do have aphrodisiac qualities, but those are not usually related to scombroid poisoning.

© Food Safety News
  • jmunsell

    I love ice cream, typically energizing my desire for more & more. Therefore, if my home freezer runs dry of ice cream, and I hurry to the store to purchase more, I can steal the ice cream, run out the door, and if arrested, can claim that I was under the influence of an insatiable desire for ice cream. Naah, I’m not responsible for my misbehavior.
    If indeed oysters are an aphrodisiac, potentially causing abnormal behavior, then we need to consider an “Oyster Eating Zone”, in which all abnormal behavior is acceptable and one enters at his/her own risk. Similar to bars, and public locations where smoking is allowed. Enter at your own risk.
    So, if I want some “action”, I can now claim immunity from prosecution because I ate some oysters.
    Are we all idiots?
    John Munsell

  • Carlo Silvestri

    Where has individual responsibility fled? This is incredibly stupid — stupid on the part of the jury, stupid on the part of Professor Nicholas Birch. I personally can’t believe this happened. This is disgusting.

  • Rosemary

    Scombroid poisoning involves histamines, so this person would have been having a reaction more like a major cold. Shellfish can contain neurotoxins that are classified as either amnesic, paralytic, or neurotoxic, but the symptoms don’t include groping. This will certainly be an interesting anecdote to share in my ServSafe food safety courses.

  • Eric

    @John Munsell – Did you even bother to read the article?

  • John Munsell

    I love ice cream, typically energizing my desire for more & more. Therefore, if my home freezer runs dry of ice cream, and I hurry to the store to purchase more, I can steal the ice cream, run out the door, and if arrested, can claim that I was under the influence of an insatiable desire for ice cream. Naah, I’m not responsible for my misbehavior.
    If indeed oysters are an aphrodisiac, potentially causing abnormal behavior, then we need to consider an “Oyster Eating Zone”, in which all abnormal behavior is acceptable and one enters at his/her own risk. Similar to bars, and public locations where smoking is allowed. Enter at your own risk.
    So, if I want some “action”, I can now claim immunity from prosecution because I ate some oysters.
    Are we all idiots?
    John Munsell