Sex attacker jailed - Hatfield

25/11/2013

A sex attacker, who tried to rape a 15-year-old girl on her way to the shops to do an errand for her mum, stopped when she told him she was a Christian.

Stuart Simmonds helped the girl up and even brushed her down before walking with her along an isolated footpath. When she told him she had to buy sugar, he told her the cheapest place was an Aldi store. Simmonds then accompanied the frightened youngster to the shop in Hatfield, Herts and then walked with her as she made her way back to her home in St Albans.

But today, Monday, 25 November 2013, Simmonds, 22, was jailed for eight years and told on his release he will remain on licence for a further seven years, because he is considered to be a danger.

Passing sentence at St Albans Crown Court, Judge John Plumstead told 22-year-old Simmonds: "It was a nightmare. This is the nightmare of every parent and of every young woman that they will be attacked in a place by a stranger and be subjected to violence and sexual assault."

The judge said that when the girl told Simmonds she wouldn't tell the police if he let her go, he asked how could he believe her, and she had replied that she was a Christian. The remark prompted him to stop the attack and later she told her parents and then bravely returned to the spot with detectives so show them the scene of the attack.

Judge Plumstead said: "If she is a Christian, the promise she broke isn't one she should lose sleep over." He said the girl's courage and the help she had given police brought about the defendant's arrest.

Before he was jailed, the court heard that as a 16-year-old Simmonds had carried out an almost identical attack on a 15-year-old girl walking home from school. For that he received a six month detention and training order at Luton Crown Court in 2007.

Simmonds, of Collenswood Road in Stevenage, Herts, appeared in court and pleaded guilty to attempted rape and assault by penetration. The offences happened on 05 April this year. The court was told the girl, who was 15 at the time, was on her school holidays. That afternoon she left her home in St Albans to run an errand for her mum and buy her a bag of sugar. She took a footpath through some some local woods that ran from St Albans to Hatfield known as 'The Alban Way.' Her plan was to go to a store opposite the Galleria shopping centre in Hatfield to buy the sugar.

Richard Germain prosecuting: "She was on the pathway walking towards the shop, with the Galleria on her left and bushes either side, when she was grabbed from behind and a hand was placed over her mouth."

Judge Plumstead said Simmonds then dragged her off the path and into a ditch and punched her in the face causing swelling to her top and bottom lip. Now on her back, the defendant stood over her.

"He told her not to fight him, because he had been trained in the army," said Mr Germain. The court heard he then sexually assaulted her.

Mr Germain said the girl continued talking to Simmonds. She told him to stop and told him she would not tell anyone if he let her go. When Simmonds asked her: "Why should I believe you?" the girl told him he could, because she was a Christian. The girl's words had some effect on him and he stopped and helped her from a ditch.

"He helped her get up and brushed her down, because he could see her clothes were dirty," said the prosecutor. Then, on learning she had been going to buy sugar for her mum, he told her the cheapest place was Aldi. Mr Germain said he took her to the store, waiting outside the shop, so as not to get caught on the store's CCTV. When she reappeared he then escorted her back towards her home where she arrived around 2.30pm in a distressed state and "crying uncontrollably." Her lower lip was cut from the blow she'd received.

Police were called and, working from the description the girl gave them, they were able to spot the defendant on CCTV taken near the store. He was quickly identified and enquiries led officers to the home in Hatfield of his ex girlfriend, where he was found hiding in a loft as his clothes were being washed in the washing machine. He was arrested and taken to the police station where he made no comment.

Judge Plumstead was told the offence in April, for which he was convicted of sexual assault, was on a 15-year-old schoolgirl walking home from school on a footpath. She too had been grabbed from behind by Simmonds, who claimed on that occasion he was armed with a knife.

The court heard when Simmonds committed the latest offence, he had only just come out of prison and was on licence for robbing a young woman in which he had come up on her from behind.

Passing sentence Judge Plumstead told Simmonds, who is a diabetic, that there were "startling similarities" between the two sex attacks and he told him "Plainly you are a dangerous offender."

The judge said the latest victim had managed to talk him out of what he had been planning. "She was a very brave girl," he said.

The judge told Simmonds that his offences that day amounted to every parent's "worst nightmare."

Judge Plumstead then said: "This girl, a polite, well spoken, charming young woman, managed to talk you down from the state you were in and is responsible herself for her own salvation."

The girl's father was in court to see Simmonds jailed.  The judge told the dad he hoped that, with the sentencing, she could begin to put it behind her. The father replied: "She is doing well."

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