A TAXI driver sexually assaulted a drunken woman after taking her home following a night out, a court heard.
John William Patton was said to have taken advantage of the young woman’s condition and carried out the assault having helped her from his cab into her home near Durham, in the early hours of Sunday March 1 last year.
Durham Crown Court heard that the woman recalled that on coming round from her drunken stupor she became aware of the defendant trying to tug her tight-fitting dress off her.
In her recorded police interview, played to the court, she said she exclaimed: “What the f*** is going on?”
She said that Patton’s response was simply to walk out and leave the flat.
Paul Cleasby, prosecuting, said that Patton collected the 20-year-old woman from Durham city centre, at 2.20am, and that she was helped to his car, by a man he did not know.
Patton claimed he dropped the woman off first, before the man who assisted her into his car.
But, when the male passenger was spoken to, he said Patton took him home first, to Birtley, north of Chester-le-Street, before taking the woman home.
The defendant, of Thirlmere Avenue, in Easington Lane, Houghton-le-Spring, changed his account and accepted that he had dropped the man off first, before taking the woman home.
The 48-year-old self-employed driver, who is of previous good character, had denied a charge of sexual assault.
He told his trial that he merely helped the woman into her flat and that she must have been confused.
Patton said he could not explain why she might say that he was trying to remove her dress.
Following a three-day trial, the jury returned a guilty verdict, by a 10-2 majority.
Jailing him for four years, Judge Christopher Prince said Patton’s actions were like, “a predator, preying on the vulnerable”.
He made Patton subject of registration as a sex offender for life.
The judge also praised the “chivalrous” assistance given to the victim by the unnamed man when he came across her in her drunken condition, in Durham, that night.