Judge’s hands tied over sentencing as family lash out over failings in the system
An eight-month sentence handed to a pervert who subjected a teenage girl to a terrifying sex assault has been lambasted by the victim’s sister.
The Co Down woman, who cannot be identified to protect her sister’s right to anonymity, echoed the judge’s criticism of the PPS decision to prosecute Christopher Roy Simm in the magistrates rather than the crown court where he could have faced enhanced sentencing powers.
“Eight months is not enough, it’s far from enough but for him to then appeal that, it’s a slap in the face for my sister.
“The PPS have effectively slapped her in the face too because while we don’t know what the sentence would have been in the crown court, it certainly would have been a lot more than what District Judge Hamill gave him,” declared the understandably angry woman.
Just a few days before he was due to go on trial earlier this year Simm, who was from Victoria Court in Donaghadee before he had to flee under threat, entered guilty pleas to two counts of sexually assaulting the then 14-year-old victim on September 5, 2020.
Newtownards Magistrates Court heard on Tuesday how the schoolgirl was with a friend on the beach in Donaghadee when they had the misfortune to encounter Simm who was high on a cocktail of drink and drugs.
“He asked her friend to wait around the corner and when she did, the defendant began to pull at her trousers, calling her sexy and that she was asking for it,” said a prosecuting lawyer.
The teenager told him to stop and that he was “being weird” and although he did stop when her friend came back, he started again when the friend left, “kissing her cheeks.”
Giving her his bottle of Buckfast to hold while he urinated in an alleyway, Simm asked the girl “to hold his penis” as well and although she refused, he “slapped her on the bottom” as they walked away.
Inside his property, the girl went to the bathroom to call her friend but “she realised he could hear her and he started banging on the door” and when she came out, he “forced her onto the sofa” and kneeling between her legs, “he started kissing her jaw and biting her neck.”
“She began to cry and that’s when he stopped and said sorry and made her swear on his children’s lives that she wouldn’t tell on him,” she told the court but thankfully, “the police report came in the following day.”
Arrested and interviewed, Simm claimed while he had “absolutely no recollection” of any incident and had been on a “drink and drug binge for eight months” that it “definitely should not have happened.”
Defence counsel Conor Holmes highlighted that Simm had confessed his guilt before any child witnesses had to be called and that although the pre-sentence report stated that probation could not recommend such an order, he suggested to the judge “there’s nothing preventing you from imposing probation.”
Highlighting that Simm faced a maximum sentence of six months in his court but up to 10 years in the crown court, DJ Hamill declared: “That’s the difference, that’s the outrage I feel in this case.”
“I have been doing this for more than a quarter of a century and I have never come across such a serious case in the magistrates,” said the clearly angry judge, “hopefully the prosecution will learn the lesson from this case.”
He explained that because Simm confessed his guilt, he was duty-bound to reflect that with a lower sentence “probably about four months so he’ll be out in about eight weeks.”
Ordering Simm to stand up, DJ Hamill told the creep “this was appalling behaviour towards this child and you should have been in the crown court” facing years rather than months.
Imposing four-month sentences on each count but making them consecutive, Simm was also ordered to sign the police sex offenders’ register for 10 years and made the subject of a five-year Sexual Offences Prevention Order.
Although initially taken to the cells, Simm was later freed on bail pending an appeal of the sentence.
For the victim’s sister, the fact that Simm is once again a free man, at least temporarily, “shows how appalling the justice system is.”
“This court case and potentially having to give evidence came at a crucial time in her life.
“She was preparing for exams that only finished last week and with the case coming to a conclusion, she had turned the corner but now that scumbag is appealing, it’s put her back to square one.
“As the judge said, he should have been facing a crown court judge facing years in jail, not months, and it’s disgusting he thinks it’s acceptable to appeal the short sentence he did get.”