July 2020

Young sex attack victim came forward after recognising football shirt

A young sex assault victim from Derbyshire bravely came forward after seeing a football shirt from the team her attacker supported.

Derby Crown Court heard how the girl disclosed to her mother she had been indecently assaulted when she saw the Sheffield United jersey on TV.

She told how she has been sexually touched by James Furniss years before. He had then slapped her and told her she was naughty.

The now 32-year-old offender then disappeared for more than two years before walking into a police station to hand himself in.

And he also failed to turn up for his first sentencing hearing, last month, as in the words of the judge “he knew he was going to prison for a long time”.

Jailing him for three years and nine months, with an extended 12-month sentence, Judge Shaun Smith QC said: “When you were younger you did something you had never done before and you have never done since.

“As such, it is an inexplicable and isolated incident but it is an incident of real horror for the young victim.

“You pulled her knickers down and sexually assaulted her. It hurt her and she told you to stop and you did.

“But not before putting the responsibility on her by telling her she was naughty and slapping her.

“I accept your remorse is genuine because you pleaded guilty on the day of trial.

“That means that, had you been found guilty after a trial, you could still have said ‘the jury got it wrong’. She will at least have some comfort in knowing everyone knows she was telling the truth.”

Jonathan Dee, prosecuting, said the offence took place in South Derbyshire more than five years ago.

He said Furniss and the girl, who at the time was aged under 13, were at a house and that is when he sexually assaulted her.

Mr Dee said the matter came to a head around two years later when the victim saw a Sheffield United football club shirt being worn by someone on the TV. That brought back memories of what Furniss, who supports the team, had done to her.

He said at that point she disclosed to her family what took place and they went to the police.

Mr Dee said: “The matter has taken a considerable amount of time (to come to court) because it took the police the best part of two-and-a-half years to find the defendant.

“They searched the details and kept coming up with the same address in Sheffield.

“They spoke to his mother but nothing came forward until he walked into a police station in Sheffield and was arrested.”

Mr Dee read out part of a victim impact statement made by the mother of the girl.

In it, she said: “She (the victim) refers to the defendant as ‘a monster’ and certain innocuous things, like seeing someone with the same hair colour or seeing someone wearing a particular football shirt, set her off.”

Furniss, of Birklands Avenue, Handsworth, Sheffield, pleaded guilty to one count of indecent assault of a girl aged under 13.

Andrew Vout, prosecuting, said his client had pleaded guilty on the day of the trial which spared the victim having to relive her ordeal in a public forum.

He added that, recently, Furniss has attempted to take his own life.

As well as jail, the defendant will be on the sex offender register for life.