'Smiling' Chester bar groper avoids jail

Reporter:

Steve Creswell

A “FAMILY man” has avoided jail after he admitted sexually assaulting a young woman in a packed Chester pub.

Michael Alexander Smith, 29, twice put his hand up his victim's dress as she stood at the bar with her back towards him in The Alchemist on St John Street.

Chester Crown Court heard today that he then smiled at her when she turned around to confront him on September 30 this year.

Smith - who has daughters of his own – and a pal then became aggressive towards the woman and a bystander had to intervene.

The victim, who had been on a night out with her partner and friends, said she had been left feeling humiliated and violated by the incident.

Sentencing, Judge Nicholas Woodward described Smith's behaviour as “absolutely appalling”.

However, given the defendant had no previous convictions and had family and work responsibilities he said a high level community order could be imposed, rather than a custodial sentence.

Smith was ordered to carry out 250 hours of unpaid work and must abide by a 3pm to 7am curfew over Christmas and New Year, as well as every following Saturday for 12 months.

He will also have to sign on the sex offenders' register for five years, as well as forking out £465 in court costs.

“This is one of the most unusual cases of sexual assault I've had to deal with,” the judge said.

“You clearly seemed to find what you were doing was amusing. It is important for this court to recognise the impact that your actions had on the victim. She has felt humiliated and degraded by what you did.

“It has affected her psychologically and she's quite right to view this as absolutely disgraceful behaviour on your part. You violated her; it's as simple as that.”

Outlining the case, prosecutor Mandy Nepal said the young woman had been ordering drinks at the bar when the assault occurred.

“As she stood there she suddenly felt a hand up her dress,” Miss Nepal said. “She was wearing a dress that came above the knee with tights on underneath. She felt the hand touch her bottom and between her legs.”

When she turned around she could see no obvious culprit, and turned back to the bar. But just five seconds later she felt the hand move back between her legs “more forcefully”.

“She turned very quickly and saw the defendant behind her,” Miss Nepal said. “His hand moved away quickly from under her dress and she said 'you've got no f***ing right to touch my body!'”

The defendant was smiling but he and his friend then became aggressive and another customer stepped in. The victim was crying by this time and her friend came to support her.

The incident was reported to security and Smith was arrested after police officers arrived.

In his police interview he said he had no recollection of the incident as he had been very drunk. However, he made full admissions after viewing the CCTV footage and accepted the woman had not given consent.

In a victim impact statement, read to the court by Miss Nepal, the complainant said: “Not once in my life have I felt so overwhelmed, humiliated, intimidated, but most of all, violated.”

The ordeal had made her anxiety and depression worse to the extent she now suffers panic attacks and is afraid to go out in Chester.

“The assault was revolting and she fears she will be left carrying and dealing with the events of that night for a long time,” Miss Nepal told the court.

Dafydd Roberts, defending, described Smith as a “family man” who had no previous convictions and whose actions were entirely out of character. He had also shown considerable remorse.

“He was drunk but that does not in any way excuse his behaviour,” Mr Roberts said. “He was frightened by the way he behaved and he will never be drinking that amount again.

“He would hate for something like that to happen to his own daughters.”

Smith, of Holland Street, Crewe, hid his face from photographers as he ran from the court building after the hearing.

Email:

steve.creswell@nwn.co.uk

See full story in the Chester Leader

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