Shy teen faces jail for touching girl’s arm
A "VERY anxious" university student who googled "how to make new friends" is facing jail after he touched a 17-year-old schoolgirl on the arm and waist because he was "lonely".
Jamie Griffiths, 19, a student at Durham University, came into contact with the girl during two encounters as she walked to and from school.
The victim, who was due to sit her mock end-of-year exams, burst into tears during the second encounter.
She immediately rang her mum and they then went and reported the incident to the police.
The victim told how she now "panics" when she sees a lone man walking towards her and struggles to leave the house alone.
At Manchester Magistrates' Court, Griffiths - who lives with his parents in Knutsford in the UK - was convicted of two charges of sexual assault.
He had denied the charges.
The 19-year-old will be sentenced later this month and also faces being ordered to sign the Sex Offenders Register.
The offence carries a maximum sentence of 10 years jail if dealt with at a crown court.
The court heard how the encounters took place between October and November last year.
On the first encounter the girl, now 18, told how she was walking home from school when she saw Griffiths staring at a hedge.
She said: "As I walked towards him, I was watching him and he suddenly swung round so he was facing me.
"I remember it happening fast. As soon as he moved I moved and I said 'stop', and he touched me on my arm.
"I sort of jolted out of the way, and I went into the road to avoid him and he very quickly walked away.
"I think it would have been on my breast had I not moved. When it first happened I didn't think much of it, didn't click in my head, I just thought 'that was really weird, why did he touch me?'"
The victim told how she encountered Griffiths again on November 7.
She said: "I was quite far up the road when I noticed him. He is someone who lives in my area, someone I have seen before … I thought I recognised him but I didn't think it was the person from the first incident at the time.
"It was only when he moved to touch me and looked me in the eyes that I realised it was the same person. The pavement was quite wide but he suddenly moved to walk in front of me, looked me straight in the eye and touches me on my side and walked off.
"It was quite a while - three to five seconds. He smirked at me, he didn't stop, he just touched me and walked off and I broke down crying in the street - it was quite traumatic.
"I had reported the previous incident to the police days beforehand as it had been going around that other incidents had occurred, and I thought I could give more evidence and then it happened again.
"I broke down in tears straight away and rang my mum. I attempted to follow him initially and get a picture, but I wasn't quick enough.
"I rang my mum, she came and picked me up. We went straight to the house and then went straight to the police station and reported the incident".
The victim spoke about the lasting impact the encounters had on her.
She said: "I was trying to revise for these exams and I couldn't focus at all. Every time I started working I would cry because I would think about it.
"I felt very unsafe even in my own home. I couldn't walk to school for a couple of weeks. I wouldn't leave the house myself.
"Even today, walking down the street it just makes everything a little bit scarier. If there is a guy walking towards me by himself I start to panic. It is just part of everyday life.
"It was more shocking that someone thought they had the right to touch me as I walked down the street".
'VERY ANXIOUS PERSON'
Griffiths, who had been volunteering at a charity shop, told the court his intention was to "make a friend".
He said: "I was lonely … I just wanted to speak to someone."
The university student added: "She was walking towards me and I recognised her. I didn't say anything but I really wanted to say something - the words just didn't come out. I touched her but I believed that it was the arm I was touching."
Griffiths said he struggled to make friends and had "always been a very anxious person".
He told the court he'd looked up "how to make new friends" online.
He said: "I have always been more stay-at-home with my parents and loneliness is all consuming. I really needed someone to talk to at the time and my intention was to make a friend - but I clearly didn't go about it the right way and I am sorry for the misunderstanding.
"I tried to speak to her but I just couldn't. My anxiety kicks in and it makes it impossible to say anything".
Griffiths' lawyer, Claire Aldridge, said: "She did say: 'I think it would have been on my breast had I not moved', but what she thinks might have happened isn't the issue.
"Are you dealing with somebody lying in wait in broad daylight, or are you dealing with an anxious and awkward young man, someone who struggles to make friends by his own admission?
"He is a particularly shy, anxious young man who spends most of his time studying with his parents."
But prosecutor Victoria Norman said: "The complainant was adamant about what she had suffered and was very frank and honest with this court. He intended to touch her breast area and was waiting for her.
"What rational person looks up 'how to make a friend'? Even if the defendant is advancing he was just seeking to make a friend, he waits in two areas that are isolated on her route home, he touches her.
"An attempt to make a friendship with anyone surely starts with a hello or a wave."
Convicting Griffiths, the magistrates told him: "The complainant's evidence was very clear, logical and without embellishment. We can think of no motivation for you to touch the victim other than sexual.
"Had she not taken evasive action the assault was likely to have been even more serious.
"The first assault can be recognised as opportunistic, however there is more evidence of premeditation in the second."
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This article originally appeared on The Sun and was reproduced with permission