A MAN on a pre-arranged home visit to assess work to a fireplace was asked to leave after indecently touching the female householder.

Christopher Forsyth was sitting next to the woman on the settee while talking to her about the job, as her young child slept upstairs.

Durham Crown Court heard that having been told she suffered with depression he began to tickle the shocked woman with both hands, as she protested, telling him to stop.

Paul Cleasby, prosecuting, said Forsyth told her he would “tickle out” whatever was wrong with her.

She fell off the settee and Forsyth sat astride her, so she was unable to get up, putting his hands under her jumper and indecently touched her chest and leg, as well as kissing her.

The woman managed to get to her feet and moved from the lounge to the dining area, telling Forsyth to get out of her house.

Forsyth left, while the woman was physically sick, before she rang her boyfriend to tell him what had happened.

The defendant sent her a text message, making light of the incident, saying he did not realise she was “so ticklish” and he came back knocking at the door, seeking to talk to her, but she did not reply.

Mr Cleasby said she rang the police and, when arrested, Forsyth admitted tickling and kissing her but claimed there was no sexual intention.

The victim told police she felt, “violated and dirty”, and, in her impact statement, said she was left, “deeply upset and distressed”.

In the following weeks if she heard a noise outside the house she feared it was Forsyth returning and was worried she may bump into him while she was away from home.

But, in a conciliatory comment, she said she did not want those that relied on the defendant to suffer if he was to be given a custodial sentence.

Forsyth, 29, of Heath Way, Seaham, initially entered a not guilty plea to a charge of sexual assault.

Prior to his scheduled trial, in February, he changed his plea to guilty on a basis that was accepted by the prosecution, following consultation with the victim.

John Crawford, representing the defendant, said he is of previous good character and made attempts to apologise after the incident.

“He’s genuinely remorseful over what was a complete moment of madness and stupidity.

“He knows how much he has put himself at risk.”

Mr Crawford added that where the defendant now works is nowhere near to where the victim lives.

Read more: Durham Crown Court pilots courtroom protections for rape victims

Judge James Adkin told Forsyth: “For wholly unacceptable reasons you appear to have thought being invited into her home gave you the green light to sexually assault her.

“She was immensely distressed and physically ill as a result.”

But the judge added that the victim has been “charitable” as to the outcome for the defendant.

Passing a 12-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, he ordered him to undergo 260 hours' unpaid work and attend 40 probation rehabilitation activity days.

Forsyth was also made subject of a restraining order, plus registration as a sex offender, both for ten years.

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