Physio is spared jail for 'vile' sexual assault on masseuse
An internationally renowned physiotherapist from India has been spared jailed for a what a judge called a "horrible, vile" sex attack on a female masseuse.
At Newtownards Magistrates Court, Dr Aijaz Bashir Ashai (43) 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 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" and started "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.
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. He has since been sacked as team physio. The court heard that despite being told to wear underpants to his massage appointment, Ashai turned up without any on and told the masseuse his groin and buttocks were sore. After he apologised for his behaviour, Ashai is said to have offered the woman a £10 tip, which was refused.
Arrested and questioned by police, Ashai, from Mumbai, India, originally 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 hurt him when she used her elbow on the muscle.
But yesterday, as the prosecutor confirmed Ashai had no previous convictions, the defendant accepted his guilt.
In mitigation, defence solicitor Tony Caher said he had been "instructed to express (Ashai's) sincere remorse for the upset and distress 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".
Submitting that Ashai has "already suffered greatly" as a result of his actions, which have ruined his reputation and "gained him considerable notoriety in his home country", Mr Caher revealed his client had already been served with a notice that he would no longer be permitted to stay in the UK, and that when he does return to India, he may have to face further professional sanctions.
Ordering Ashai to stand 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 force 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 outstanding question was whether the prison term would be immediate or suspended.
He was given a suspended jail term for three years.
As well as the suspended custodial sentence, Ashai must sign the police sex offenders' register for five years. Instead of the £10 tip apparently offered by Ashai to his victim, the judge ordered him to pay £1,000 compensation, at which point Mr Caher handed over an envelope of cash.
Outside the court, Ashai declined to comment.