A VOLUNTEER driver who sexually assaulted a vulnerable woman was jailed for a year.

Robert William Gray was warned he would receive a custodial sentence after he was convicted of two counts of sexual assault and one of causing a person to engage in sexual activity without consent, following a trial at Durham Crown Court, in November.

The case was adjourned for preparation of background reports on Gray, who was of previous good character.

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His conviction, on 10-2 majority verdicts on each count, came after a four-day re-trial, as a jury failed to reach verdicts in the original hearing earlier in the year and were discharged.

The court heard the offences took place when Gray made social visits to the home of an adult woman with learning difficulties and special needs who he drove on a weekly basis.

Joanne Kidd, prosecuting, told the court he sat next to the woman on a sofa, and began by tickling her, before indecently touching the woman.

Miss Kidd said as a voluntary driver, who had assisted social services for seven years, he was fully aware he should not pay social visits to the homes of ‘clients’.

She said Gray knew where the woman lived as he picked her up from there to take her to a day centre in Durham once a week.

The victim reported what had taken place to her father, who informed social services, before it was brought to police attention.

Gray was initially suspended for a fortnight before being arrested.

Fifty-nine-year-old Gray, of Lambton Gardens, Burnopfield, near Stanley, County Durham, who denied the three charges, said he was merely visiting the woman for tea or coffee in a bid to cheer her up, and claimed no such touching took place.

Jailing him, Judge Christopher Prince, ordered Gray to register as a sex offender for ten years, and pay a £100 statutory surcharge.