Campaigners criticise sentence of soldier guilty of Darlington sexual assault

The Northern Echo: Darlington Magistrates Court Darlington Magistrates Court

CAMPAIGNERS have condemned the lenient sentencing of a serving soldier found guilty of sexual assault.

Frederick Omondi Odhiambo, shoved his hand into a woman's knickers without her consent while she was on a night out in Darlington.

At an earlier trial, Darlington Magistrates Court heard the drunken Odhiambo made contact with her pubic area on Sunday January 20. He had denied the charge.

The 33-year-old – currently serving in Northern Ireland – was ordered to pay his victim £2,000 compensation and costs of £600. He must also sign the sex offenders register for five years.

He may also face military punishment but escaped custodial or community sentencing after magistrates heard character references from Army colleagues.

In a statement, the soldier was described by one lieutenant as a morally and professionally competent “gentle giant” whose behaviour was without reproach.

Kenyan-born Odhiambo was described as someone with a bright future in the Army, where he taught other soldiers Swahili ahead of operations in East Africa.

Chair of the bench Glynn Wales said: “Alcohol played a huge part in this and we heard you had a difficult up-bringing and family responsibilities.

“We have taken note of your favourable references and it was minimal and fleeting contact.

“We think the most appropriate punishment is for you to pay compensation.”

Richinda Taylor, CEO of rape crisis service Eva said: “Sexual assault is a very serious offence and it’s an insult to the victim that this was dealt with by means of compensation.

“A community sentence would allow him the opportunity to consider his treatment towards women and what is and isn’t acceptable.

"There are a lot of reasons why victims do not report offences. The failur of the criminal justice system to deliver appropriate sentences could be one."

A spokeswoman from North-East charity A Way Out, which helps vulnerable women, said: “It is already difficult for people to report sex crimes and if any message is given by the courts it should be that they are taken seriously, no matter how minor the incident is deemed to be.”

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