October 2018

Man found guilty of groping 13-year-old schoolgirl in churchyard

A man has been convicted by a jury of sexually assaulting a lone schoolgirl as she walked through a churchyard in her PE kit.

Jason Browne, 29, was said to have approached her from behind and touched her bottom over her shorts, after she offered to let him walk past her on the narrow footpath.

He denied the offence claiming she had made up the allegation and that he had been on the footpath, in a Leicestershire town, because he was interested in seeing the church’s architecture and looking at the graveyard.

Laura Pitman, prosecuting, said the girl did not know the defendant but noticed him walking past her in the town centre as she briefly chatted with a friend after school.

Miss Pitman told the jury of five men and seven women at Leicester Crown Court: “The girl decided she would take a shortcut through the churchyard at about 4pm.

“She became aware of someone walking quite close behind her, almost on her heels.”

Giving evidence, the girl said she asked the man “Why don’t you walk in front, you’re obviously walking faster than me.”

She described feeling scared because she was alone in the churchyard.

The girl said the man refused to overtake her and told her “Don’t worry, I’m not going to hurt you, love.”

She described how she continued walking and he suddenly grabbed her bottom, which caused her to freeze in fear.

The girl said the man then told her: “You’re very sexy aren’t you.”

She screamed, burst into tears and ran off, as the man turned around and retraced his steps.

Browne told the jury he had not previously noticed the girl and denied following her into the churchyard.

He claimed she suddenly began calling him names on the footpath for no reason to “set me up” and he walked off.

The victim told the court she came out of the churchyard extremely distressed and saw a friend who comforted her.

They told some boys they knew about what had happened, and the boys went off to look for the man.

Her mother arrived and drove her around looking for the culprit.

The girl’s mother told the jury they found the man and her daughter took some photos of him running away, which they later gave to the police.

Meanwhile, one of the boys was on a bus when the defendant, fitting the description of the man who had assaulted his friend, came upstairs and appeared to be hiding.

The boy informed the bus driver, who stopped and summoned the police, who arrested him.

The jury took two hours and 18 minutes of deliberations to unanimously convict Browne of the assault.

Judge Philip Head adjourned the hearing for medical reports, after being told Browne suffered from mental health problems, was on medication and under the care of a mental health nurse.

The judge said he would be considering a community disposal with rehabilitation.

Browne, of Rosedale Avenue, Leicester, was released on conditional bail to await sentencing.