A MAN who admitted groping four women in a town centre, some while they were with their children, has been placed on the sex offenders’ register for five years.

Christopher Watson, 21, followed the women in Front Street and nearby thoroughfares in Chester-le-Street, between May and October last year.

Sentencing him at Newcastle Crown Court for four counts of sexual assault, Judge Guy Whitburn said: “On each occasion, you have caused your victims alarm and distress – in particular in respect of a woman you followed shortly after midnight.

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“She was conscious of you following her and extremely worried and apprehensive as to why you were following her.

“You never followed up these assaults with any other form of sexual assault, but no doubt these are extremely serious offences.”

David Wilkinson, prosecuting, said Watson’s first victim was walking away from the town centre with her fouryear- old son and another child in a pushchair, when she became aware of Watson following her.

The 41-year-old said, after grabbing her on the buttock he remarked “phwoar”, while a 19-year-old victim said she had turned to see him smiling at her being assaulted. Watson, however, denied having said anything or smiling.

His third victim, a 31-yearold, bent down to attend to her child in a pushchair when she was grabbed. Watson later accepted he might have “inadvertantly”

touched her private parts.

A 24-year-old woman, who was out walking after midnight, described being petrified when Watson started following, before reaching under her coat and grabbing her.

Stephen Thornton, mitigating, said Watson, who was also made subject of a threeyear community order, had told him in the one-and-a-half hours he had spent in the cell that morning he finally appreciated “the fear and terror he felt pales into insignificance to that which the women had experienced”.

He added: “If there is any possible way to get a message back to them, he says he is very sorry.”

Watson of Hilda Park, Chester-le-Street, pleaded guilty to the charges at a previous hearing. He was also ordered to be assessed for his suitably for a sexual offender programme.