July 2013

Guisborough market trader who indecently assaulted boy, 15, in Middlesbrough bus station toilets spared jail to save job and home

A MARKET trader who exposed himself and indecently assaulted a schoolboy in the toilets of a bus station walked free from court today (July 10).

Graham Ward, 44, smiled and winked at the 15-year-old before following him into a cubicle, dropping his trousers and groping the shocked lad.

The pupil had gone to the Middlesbrough bus station toilets to change out of his school uniform before meeting his girlfriend.

Ward was said to have had the mistaken belief that the teenager – who he thought looked older than he was – had gone there for a sexual encounter.

Judge Simon Bourne-Arton, QC, said he was sparing the pervert custody because he might lose his home and his business if he was locked up.

He said: “I am satisfied it was a very fleeting contact . . . you were recklessly of the view he was consenting. He wasn’t and was never likely to.”

A number of people in Ward’s community wrote what the Teesside Crown Court judge described as “very good” references about the father-of-one.

His barrister, Deborah Sherwin, said: “He is somebody who is well-regarded. The references talk of a lot of good he has done.”

Miss Sherwin urged the judge to impose a suspended sentence because Ward looks after his ill mother, employs people and owns a house.

She said he had difficulties ‘coming out’ as gay after marrying and having a child, but is now in a settled relationship.

Judge Bourne-Arton told him: “You were convicted by the jury of these two offences on what I consider to be clear evidence.

“I accept you were a regular attendee at those toilets, and while accepting knowledge they had that reputation, you denied you had visited them with that in mind.

“On this particular occasion, you took advantage of the presence of a 15-year-old boy, exposed yourself to him and then touched his penis.

“There are a number of people – upstanding members of society, upstanding members of the community – who are prepared to speak highly of you.

“Those who have served their country are now prepared to come and say that you are a man who needs a second chance.

“There are no relevant previous convictions recorded against you. It can’t be said you have a sexual predatory past – far from it.

“This is your first offence and I am going to try to do my best to make sure it is your last offence.”

Ward, of Helmsley Drive, Guisborough, was found guilty of exposure and sexual assault on November 15 last year after a trial last month.

He was given a six-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, with supervision, and was banned from the bus station toilets.