Four years in jail for man who sexually assaulted sleeping woman

Luton Crown Court
Luton Crown Court. Image: South Beds News Agency

A man who clambered on top of a sleeping woman friend and sexually assaulted her was today (Monday) jailed for four years.

James Stark, now 25 and from Bedford, subjected the victim to what the prosecutor said was “every woman’s worst nightmare.”

Luton crown court heard the 21-year-old had been out drinking with Stark, who was out celebrating his birthday.

He joined her in a taxi back to her parent’s home where they watched TV, chatted and drank. She eventually decided to go upstairs to bed, leaving Stark downstairs on the sofa.

Prosecutor Marion Smullen said: “She woke up scared, in the middle of the night, to find him on top of her. It is every woman’s worst nightmare.”

Giving evidence at a trial in December, the woman said she was able to turn over and the defendant got off the bed and briefly left the room.

She said she noticed her knickers had been removed and were beside her on the bed.

She went on: “He came in and he was like ‘Are you alright?’ I didn’t say anything and started crying, like weeping and I said ‘Why did you do that?’ I was just in shock.”

She said: “I kept saying just go, get the f… out.”

When he left she went to her parent’s bedroom and told her mother what had happened.

Stark had left behind his trousers, his hat, his mobile phone and passport at the victim’s house. He was arrested later that morning at his home.

Stark from West Rope Way, Brickhill, Bedford was found not guilty by a jury in December of raping the woman but found guilty of an alternative charge of assault by penetration. He had no previous convictions.

The offence happened on 10 August 2017 and had taken more than four years to reach the crown court.

In a victim personal statement, the woman said the offence had “turned her life upside down.” She suffered panic attacks and nightmares and for months could not lose the feeling that he was still there on top of her.

Defending, Richard Reynolds said Stark was not well at the time and was suffering from depression and anxiety.

He said: “He has a lack of previous convictions. He was a young, immature profoundly stupid man who did something more harmful than he could have appreciated.”

Judge Gary Lucie told Stark, who was crying, his victim has suffered ongoing psychological episodes and had tried to take her life on three separate occasions

He said: “She was supposed to be a friend. You took advantage of her when she was in her bed in her own house where she should have felt safe.”

The judge paid tribute to the victim’s bravery and resilience in having to wait for so long for the case to come to court.

He said: “The matter did not come before the magistrates’ court until 27 August 2020, just over three years after the offence. This is an unexplained and unjustifiable delay in prosecuting the case.”

As a result of the delay, and based on a Court of Appeal ruling on delayed cases, he reduced the sentence he would have passed from five-and-a-half years to four. Stark must register as a sex offender for life.

Supplied by South Beds News Agency
Edited by Erica Roffe for the Bedford Independent

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