Belfast Telegraph

Man who sexually assaulted colleague at work avoids jail

The case was adjourned for pre-sentence reports and on return yesterday, the defence said his client was
The case was adjourned for pre-sentence reports and on return yesterday, the defence said his client was "embarrassed and ashamed" by his behaviour (stock photo)

By Staff Reporter

A Bulgarian living in Co Tyrone who groped a work colleague was "faced down by a brave young woman" after the victim "stood her ground and made it clear this was a matter for police", a judge has said.

Argir Gunchev (36) from The Square, Moy had denied sexually assaulting the woman, and claimed any contact was "accidental brushing".

But he was given a two month prison sentence suspended for two years, and will remain on the Sex Offender Register for seven years after the judge viewed CCTV footage of the incident and he changed his plea to guilty.

Gunchev had only arrived here from his native Bulgaria a matter of days before sexually assaulting the victim last November 21.

Dungannon Magistrates Court was shown CCTV footage in which Gunchev walked close behind the victim, then grabbed her sexually with his right hand.

When the victim challenged Gunchev, he became irritated and left in the company of two family members, the court heard.

The victim described finishing a shift, when Gunchev followed her through a doorway, then sexually assaulted her, while referring to her as "Princess".

She said: "I asked him, 'What are you doing?' He licked his lips. In that moment I knew he was going to do something bad."

Challenging him, she said: "I told him what he did was wrong … He said, 'Sorry, I don't speak English'. But why would someone say they don't speak English in English?

"I wanted to phone police, but his family were there and they took him away in a car … I watched them leave. He looked me in the eye, and smiled as if nothing had happened."

Before leaving Gunchev "said he was sorry - but I knew he wasn't sorry when I saw his eyes".

The victim's manager arrived on the scene and immediately contacted police.

District Judge John Meehan viewed the CCTV footage again then told the defence what he saw was the "defendant reaching with his hand" and touching the victim in an intimate area. "I am making it clear, that is what I see and what I take from the evidence," he said.

A short adjournment was granted and on return, the defence said the charge was now accepted.

Judge Meehan said: "The defendant had the misfortune to attempt to attack a brave, feisty woman, who has been brought up to take pride in herself, the truth and the justice system.

"She stood her ground and made it clear this was a matter for police. It is heartening to know that can occur."

The case was adjourned for pre-sentence reports and on return yesterday, the defence said his client was "embarrassed and ashamed" by his behaviour.

The court heard Gunchev has a partner, with whom he has three children, and she has forgiven him. He lost his job as result of the incident and wishes to return to Bulgaria as soon as possible.

Judge Meehan told him: "There are no mitigating factors. The victim was abused in her place of work. But you were faced down by a brave young woman."

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