A renowned West End photographer who sexually assaulted an aspiring actress in his studio more than a decade ago has been jailed for three years.
Pascal Molliere, 55, attacked the woman, then aged 22, during an hour-long photoshoot at a warehouse in Fulham, west London, in July 2010.
Ahead of the shoot, he had asked the woman whether she wanted ‘to do fashion or sexy shots’ and encouraged her to bring a variety of outfits.
The photographer locked the studio door, then encouraged her to remove more and more clothing and pose for increasingly more revealing photographs before touching and kissing her genitals and forcefully kissing her on the mouth.
Molliere, from Hampshire, was jailed for three years at Southwark Crown Court on Tuesday, after he was previously found guilty by a jury of three counts of sexual assault following a nine-day trial.
Pascal Molliere, 55 (pictured, file photo), attacked a woman, then aged 22, during an hour-long photoshoot at a warehouse in Fulham, west London, in July 2010. He was jailed for three years at Southwark Crown Court on Tuesday, after he was previously found guilty by a jury of three counts of sexual assault following a nine-day trial
Judge Philip Bartle QC said it was a ‘clear case of abuse of trust’, which had a ‘life-changing’ impact on the victim, who cannot be identified because she is the victim of sexual offences.
‘This would appear to be a case where Mr Molliere exploited his position as a professional photographer to exploit the vulnerability of a trusting young woman who was also a paying customer to satisfy his sexual desires,’ he said.
‘(The victim) obviously trusted Mr Molliere and he abused that trust in the appalling way, which even he now describes as abhorrent.’
The court heard the woman had moved to the capital to pursue an acting career and had borrowed money from her mother to pay for portfolio images to publicise herself.
Prosecutor Tyrone Silcott said Molliere was a ‘highly renowned and highly regarded photographer of celebrities and actors’ who was in ‘a position of power’ which he ‘abused’.
Reading her victim impact statement from the witness box on Tuesday, the woman said: ‘When I moved to London the dream was to get into theatre, film or television and for that I needed professional head shots.
‘After what happened, I felt so sick at the thought of even trying to go for roles, that somehow it would rear its ugly head and I would just be made out to be another girl willing to do anything to get to the top.
‘It crushed me and I gave up on my dreams.’
After leaving the studio the woman ‘burst into tears’ and told her boyfriend about what had happened.
He called Molliere an ‘abhorrent human’ and contacted him, telling him to delete all the photographs and to refund the money or he would contact the police.
The money was refunded and the sexual assaults were not reported until 17 January 2019. The victim said she was inspired to report the photographer to police in 2019 after the #MeToo movement gained momentum.
‘I have nightmares where my skin crawls and feel physically sick,’ she said.
‘After it all happened, I felt sick, disgusted with myself. For all these years I have felt guilty and ashamed that I must have done something to make him think it was what I wanted.
‘I remember the feeling of fear being locked in that room.’
In late 2021, images from the photoshoot were found on the hard drive of a Toshiba laptop found at Molliere’s address, suggesting that he did not destroy them, as promised.
Prosecutor Tyrone Silcott said Molliere was a ‘highly renowned and highly regarded photographer of celebrities and actors’ who was in ‘a position of power’ which he ‘abused’
There are photographs of the victim in various stages of undress, images of her completely naked and close up shots of her private parts.
Jurors were told, over the years, she shared what happened with some close friends and close partners, explaining that ‘she had left feeling dirty, terrified’.
She did not report it because ‘she didn’t think that the police would believe her or that they could do anything about it’, said Mr Silcott.
He said: ‘It was not until after the MeToo movement when [she] noted that it was more regular for women to speak out about sexual abuse that they suffered as a result of trying to make it in the industry and being exploited and taken advantage of, that she came forward.’
Molliere was interviewed on 8 May 2019 and gave a prepared statement denying the allegations.
During the trial, Molliere denied all counts against him, claiming the incident ‘absolutely’ did not happen and the woman left his studio seeming ‘elated’.
But he has since admitted his guilt in a pre-sentence report, describing his own actions as ‘abhorrent’ but saying he acted ‘spontaneously’.
Ester Schutzer-Weissmann, defending, asked the judge to ‘to treat him with mercy’.
Ms Schutzer-Weissmann said Molliere was not the same man now that he was a decade ago when this incident occurred.
Molliere was also handed a 10-year sexual harm prevention order banning him from working as a photographer without police permission
‘He is no longer a photographer.
‘He no longer puts himself into the positions…he took advantage of.’
The barrister added that Molliere has made great changes to his life and is now a pillar of his community, running an initiative which distributes locally sourced, seasonal food.
His mother had written to the court describing him as a ‘dutiful, caring, loving son’.
The grey-haired photographer, who has taken portraits of screen legends including Dame Judi Dench, Star Trek star Sir Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellen, renamed himself Pascal Gerrard in recent years.
Molliere, who has been involved with sustainable food business StreetCube after closing his photography business, was also handed a 10-year sexual harm prevention order banning him from working as a photographer without police permission.
Judge Bartle said: ‘I am sure [the complainant] trusted him.
‘I am sure she was telling the truth when she said she did not feel comfortable when asked to take off her clothes but agreed to do so because she thought he was a professional…and because Mr Molliere convinced her that she was safe and that no one was going to see her.
‘I am also sure that Mr Molliere planned what he was going to do which is why he told [her] that he wanted to do ‘fashion or sexy shots’ and told her to bring a variety of outfits.
‘He exploited the vulnerability of a trusting young woman who was also a paying customer to satisfy his sexual desires.
‘In his pursuit of sexual gratification, he did not consider the harm to the victim.
‘His behaviour was predatory in that he kissed and touched her vagina intimately and even kissed her on the lips forcefully.
The judge said the sex attack has been ‘life changing’ for the victim.
Pauline Curtis, from the CPS, said: ‘In his capacity as a professional photographer Pascal Molliere exploited a young woman who had simply wanted a portfolio of images to help her begin an acting career. She did not consent to any sexual activity.
‘The victim trusted Molliere as a professional photographer, however that trust was abused whilst she was in her most vulnerable state.
‘During the trial Molliere said that he had behaved professionally throughout the photoshoot and denied the allegations. But after hearing all the evidence in this case, the jury did not believe him.
‘The prosecution case included strong testimony from the brave victim who came to court and gave evidence against her abuser during the trial.
‘Sexual offences are some of the most complex cases that we prosecute. I hope these convictions provide the victim with some closure and encourage other victims of such crimes to come forward and report their attackers. The CPS is committed to bring sexual predators to justice regardless of the time that has passed.’
His conviction comes nearly two and a half years after a jury at the same court cleared him of groping two aspiring actresses.
During separate photoshoots, Molliere was said to have kissed the women and groped the bare breast of one of them after asking them to remove their clothing.
He denied the claims and was cleared of two charges of sexual assault following a retrial in September 2018.