Sexual assault trial – day one

Court news.
Court news.

The trial of a north Northumberland man, who is accused of sexually assaulting four teenage girls, started today.

Mark Richard Griffiths, 55, of Cow Road, Spittal, Berwick, has pleaded not guilty to four counts of sexual assault – three of assault by touching and one of assault by penetration with his fingers.

The charges relate to four different girls, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, with three of the alleged offences taking place in January this year and the other in August 2014.

The prosecution says that the three offences in January took place during a party on a Saturday night at the defendant’s house, while the fourth alleged victim came forward in the light of these allegations to report an offence at a similar event last year.

Today, the trial at Newcastle Crown Court heard from two of the alleged victims, 16 and 17 at the time, both of whom claim they became ill after the defendant gave them a shot of vodka, which could have been spiked.

One girl said that after drinking it, she ‘felt like someone had smudged my eyesight’ and that she felt like she couldn’t walk when she woke up the following morning.

Both started being sick at the same time and the defendant came and tried to help and comfort them while they were being ill, before helping them to bed in sleeping bags on the floor of a bedroom, the jury heard.

One of the alleged victims said that while she was lying there, not asleep but very drowsy, she became aware of someone touching her. She said she opened her eyes and saw the defendant above her, who stopped when someone else in the room asked how the girl was doing. The defendant told police he merely put her in the recovery position.

The girl then went across the room to her friend because she was upset, but ended up retching on the friend’s top. According to the second alleged victim, the defendant then took off her top and then her bra, because of the vomit.

He denies this, saying he rolled up her top, but didn’t take it off, and only unclipped her bra after the girl told him to, but left before she took it off. Her top and bra had been washed in the morning.

Under cross-examination by the defence, it was suggested that despite turning up to the party late after being at work, the first alleged victim was drunk when she turned up, slurring her words and not walking in a straight line. A visibly upset witness, she denied this was the case.

The second alleged victim was also questioned about how much she had had to drink on the night in question and admitted that she thought the defendant had been comforting at first, but when her friends ‘described what happened to them, that’s when I started to think it was something more sinister’.

In video interviews with the police a week after the incident, which were shown to the jury, the first alleged victim said that she was having difficulty getting to sleep and couldn’t stay in the house on her own, while the second said that she felt ‘dirty’ and ‘embarrassed’ adding: “It’s all I think about, it makes me feel sick.”

The trial continues.