Cricket physio Dr Aijaz Bashir Ashai avoids jail over 'vile' sex attack on female masseuse in Northern Ireland hotel
An internationally renowned physiotherapist from India has avoided jail after a judge suspended his four month prison term for what he described as a "horrible...vile" sex attack on a female masseuse.
At Newtownards Magistrates Court on Friday Dr Aijaz Bashir Ashai, who celebrates his 43rd birthday tomorrow (Saturday) admitted a single offence of causing his victim to engage in sexual activity on July 14 this year.
As Ashai sat in the dock with his head bowed, a prosecuting lawyer told the court how his victim had twice spurned his "sexual advances" during a massage at the La Mon Hotel spa when he "grabbed her hands and forced them between his legs," adding that he then put her hands on his private parts "rubbing them up and down."
"She shouted 'no,' left the room immediately and told the manager who saw the injured party exit the treatment room in a distressed state," said the lawyer.
Immediately after the incident Ashai "apologised repeatedly" but was arrested by police who had been alerted.
At the time of the incident Ashai was staying at the hotel with the Nepalese cricket team who were playing their T20 World Cup qualifiers at Stormont but he has since been sacked as their physio.
When originally charged last month the court heard that despite being instructed to wear underpants to his full body massage appointment, Ashai attended without them, telling the masseuse he was suffering in the groin and buttock area.
After he apologised for his behaviour, Ashai offered her a £10 tip which was refused the court heard.
Arrested and questioned by cops Ashai, from Thakur Village East, Mumbai in India, accepted he had gone for a massage but denied behaving in any sexual way, claiming the only time he touched the lady was to move her arm away from his inner leg as it became painful as she used her elbow on the muscle.
Today, however Ashai accepted his guilt and the prosecutor confirmed that until now he had no prior convictions.
At the very outset of his plea in mitigation, defence solicitor Tony Caher said he had been "expressly instructed to express his sincere remorse for the upset and distress that was suffered by this young lady," adding that it was "commendable" she had gone back to work so quickly after her ordeal.
He agreed with District Judge Des Perry that Ashai was "very fortunate" his victim had written what the judge said was "one of the most balanced victim impact statements I have seen."
Mr Caher also agreed that it was "surprising" and an aggravating factor in the case "for a man in his position" to have behaved in this way but he said that unlike many similar cases, there was an absence of other aggravating factors.
Submitting that Ashai has "already suffered greatly" as a result of his actions which have ruined his reputation and "gained considerable notoriety in his home country...and attracted considerable worldwide attention," Mr Caher revealed that the Dr had already been served with a notice that he will no longer be permitted to stay in the UK and that when he does return to India, he may have further professional sanctions.
"He had paid a huge penalty for this transgression which was clearly out of character," declared the lawyer.
Ordering Ashai to stand up to be sentenced, Judge Perry told him "how you came to commit this horrible thing is beyond my understanding" as his victim had been it "quite clear" she was rejecting his sexual advances.
"To forced yourself upon her in the way you did was unthinkable," said the judge adding that the case "undoubtedly" called for a prison sentence.
He told Ashai the only question was whether the prison term would be immediate or suspended.
Suspending the term for three years, Judge Perry added that "not withstanding your vile behaviour, I feel able to do that" given his clear record, remorse and character references.
As well as the suspended jail term, Ashai must sign the police sex offenders offenders register for five years.
Instead of the £10 tip apparently initially offered by Ashai to his victim, the judge also ordered him to pay £1,000 to her in compensation at which point, Mr Caher handed over an envelope of cash.
Outside the court, Ashai declined to comment.