Sexual assault trial – day three

Court news.
Court news.

A north Northumberland man accused of sexually assaulting teenage girls strenuously denied the allegations as he gave evidence 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 and were aged 16 and 17 at the time, with three of the alleged offences taking place in January this year and the other in August 2014 at parties at the defendant’s house.

Today, the trial, at Newcastle Crown Court, heard that the prosecution has chosen not to proceed with the third count – of sexual assault by touching – which relates to a girl who claims Griffiths took off her top and bra.

The jury heard from two of the alleged victims on Monday with the other two girls giving evidence yesterday.

Giving evidence this afternoon, Griffiths, who served in the Royal Navy for 18 years before moving into the private security business, answered ‘negative’, definitely not’ or ‘not at all’ when the allegations were put to him.

He denied giving the girls drinks or encouraging them to drink and explained that he had contacted parents in the past about alcohol at parties, but not necessarily of the girls in question.

Asked under cross-examination if he noticed the girls were starting to get very drunk, he replied no.

Griffiths was also asked why he didn’t contact the parents after the girls became ill, but replied that their friends could have contacted the parents if necessary and that the girls had been looked after anyway.

This morning, the jury heard excerpts from the police interview with the defendant, which took place in May as Griffiths had been out of the country working.

In the case of the alleged victim who claimed he had touched her, he said he heard her heaving and rolled her onto her side, in the recovery position, as he was ‘concerned she would choke on her vomit’, by taking hold of the waistband at the back of her trousers, having been unable to move her using her shoulder.

Regarding the girl who said he took off her top and bra, Griffiths said he rolled her top up at the back, leaving her front covered, then said he would get someone else to help. He said that the girl insisted he unclip her bra, which he did, but then left.

He admitted walking the third alleged victim home from that party, but said he did not grab or touch her - all he did was give her a peck on the cheek after they both leaned in when parting.

“I would not put my family through all this,” he told police. “It’s absolutely bloody ridiculous to think I would put everything at risk for a girl about a third of my age.”

The court also heard from one of Griffiths’ friends, John Patterson, who was at the party in January and said it was his wife Glenda who helped the girl while she was being sick in the bathroom, holding her hair back, not the defendant.

He also said that he overheard the same girl saying she had been trying cocktails before she arrived and saw her arrive with a bottle of vodka.

However, under cross-examination, he conceded that he wasn’t there the first time the girl had been sick so could not say who was with her at that time.

Asked why he didn’t tell the jury that originally, he said it was a ‘genuine mistake’ and denied coming to court to help his friend.

The trial continues.