A DELIVERY delivery driver who fondled a housewife on his rounds walked free from court - after claiming the case had upset him!

Andrew Hartley moaned that he had been fired from his job and become depressed since the incident in east Cleveland last October.

Outside court, the 53-year-old, from Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, insisted he had done nothing wrong - even though he pleaded guilty.

Loading article content

He told our reporter, when asked if he thought it was all right to grope girls: "She wasn't a girl, she was in her fifties."

Teesside Crown Court heard how the victim was left feeling scared and violated, and has since installed CCTV cameras at her home.

Yet Hartley 's barrister told the court the case has had a "significant impact" on him.

"He was immediately dismissed from his employment," said Mark Styles, mitigating. "The upshot is, he has been labouring with the effects of depression as a result of losing his work . . . it is wholly out of character."

The court heard how Hartley pointed to a bulge in his trousers, and said: "Look at that . . . how can I go about with that?"

When he turned up at the house earlier, he complained of having no money and being hungry, said prosecutor John Gillette, and showed the woman a hole in his trousers, claiming he had been attacked by a dog.

The householder was worried at Hartley's odd behaviour and asked him to leave her parcels on the doorstep.

But he continued to go in and out of the house with packages, before asking if he could use the toilet,

said Mr Gillette.

When he returned after several minutes, he pointed to his groin, and said to the stunned woman: "Look at this."

Hartley leant against a worktop and began thrusting his hips forward, before groping his victim's breast and trying to kiss her.

Mr Gillette told the court he repeatedly and puzzlingly said "thank you" before leaving.

Mr Styles said: "This was an aberration, and most unlikely to be repeated. He has been in similar situations - alone with people receiving parcels, ladies on their own - multiple times without problems."

Hartley's long-term partner wrote to the judge, while three friends and a former employer provided character testimonials.

Judge Simon Bourne-Arton, QC, told him: "What you did that afternoon was invade the privacy of that woman. You intimidated her and took advantage of her being alone.

"Those who have given you references speak of you being selfless. You were not selfless on that afternoon. You were selfish."

Hartley, of Shafto Way, Newton Aycliffe, admitted sexual assault last October and was given an 18-month community order with supervision.