The celebrity chef Steven Saunders was yesterday cleared of two charges of indecently assaulting a 15-year-old girl. Mr Saunders, 35, was alleged to have forcibly kissed the girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, and to have run his hand up her skirt to try to pull down her tights.
A unanimous jury recorded two not-guilty verdicts and Mr Saunders, pictured outside the court yesterday, was allowed to leave the court.
The girl alleged the incidents took place at the Pink Geranium, in Melbourne, near Cambridge, on New Year's Eve 1996. She had been casually employed at the restaurant, owned by Mr Saunders and his wife Sally, 37. Mr Saunders, who lives in Melbourne with his wife and two daughters, aged six and nine, had told the jury he gave the girl, now 16, nothing more than a New Year kiss on the lips in his office at around midnight.
As he left court yesterday Mr Saunders said he was "very happy" with the verdict. Breaking down in tears, he said: "I feel very good about it, but now I just want to go home. I've been upset about the whole thing and now I just want everyone to leave me alone."
The former Young Chef of the Year said he had been devastated by the allegations.Reuse content